Choosing the right seed for a field is the first critical step toward an abundant harvest. However, seed selection today is much more complex and includes many more factors than it did a decade ago. With hundreds of dollars wrapped up in a crop before and after it is planted, growers want to get the most return on their investment. A local seed expert can help them do just that.
According to Terry Aukes, seed manager for Farmers Elevator Company in Doon, Iowa, growers’ expectations of products are very high and so are the stakes. “Poor seed performance is not tolerated in high-input agriculture,” he said. “As a result, the turnaround of products is swifter, and the number of choices is greater today than ever before.”
This fast speed of adoption needs to align with the pace of new products coming to market. Deciphering yield data and product performance is a massive undertaking. To evaluate a hybrid or variety in a broad environment is one thing, Aukes noted, but to determine if it is going to work in a specific micro-environment is much more difficult.
Chris Beach, Syngenta seed advisor in Leonard, Mo., agreed, “Seed selection can make the difference between a crop success and a crop failure. But a grower’s buying decision is much more complex than a simple this-or-that pick.”
Performance and yield are critical factors to consider, Beach said. The hybrid has to perform in the environment for which it is designed. Stress tolerance—whether due to drought, wet soil or pollination—is an important issue and so are good roots, excellent standability and disease ratings. Traits are also an integral part of the selection process and should be chosen based on each field’s pest pressure, crop rotation and the grower’s need to minimize the field’s stress load.
Beach acknowledged that the list of considerations can be quite long if growers want to cover every angle to make the best plan of action. “Growers need to ask themselves, ‘What populations will I plant; what seed treatment, if any, will I use; and what is the harvest window?’ They also need to consider the condition of the field: Is it a wet creek bottom with high fertility, or is it that clay goat knob that has low fertility? Hand-in-hand with these considerations are the maturities that the grower wants and needs.”
The current competitive environment also can factor into the decision process. Growers often find the acquisition of additional land difficult and risky, so the consensus is to improve the land base they have already. A poor seed decision can make this strategy crumble.
Help is just around the corner. Aukes and Beach noted that local seed experts can help growers make the right choices. They know the products they are selling, as well as the hybrids or varieties that will fit a particular grower’s management style. They can listen to growers, understand their needs and help them set realistic expectations, even when the unexpected occurs.
“Sooner or later, a situation will deviate from the plan, and an outcome may not turn out as expected,” Aukes said. “For example, the weather is impossible to control. But a local seed expert can help a grower learn from the situation, adapt and move forward.”