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The Most Important Decision of The Year. How do you approach it?

The most important decision of the year.

Despite the fact that many corn producers have yet to finish corn harvest, the corn seed sales season for 2010 has officially begun.

If you are like me, there is something a bit disconcerting about sales calls hunting seed orders for next year when I am so far behind on this year’s harvest. My thought process is, let me get the crop off, consider the performance of this year’s seed choices, and then we’ll talk about next year.

The reality is, for this year at least, harvest and the seed sales season are one and the same and it’s not likely to change. The corn seed marketplace is super competitive and the players involved battle hard to secure those coveted early orders.

For corn growers, the process grows more complex every year. The number of traits available and the combination of traits makes it harder to choose the optimal seed product for each field. More and new traits mean an avalanche of brand names and logos to sort through to fully understand what’s available.

The challenging growing season of 2009 adds more factors to consider in the decision making process. In my area, Western Bean Cutworm made an appearance this year – a new pest that will potentially influence corn seed decisions for next year. Mold and mycotoxins are proving problematic for some growers – can’t ignore this when choosing hybrids. Moisture and dry-down characteristics will have a huge impact on bottom line this year – better keep that in mind for next year. If test weight is low, it’s going to cost you money this year so I need to consider this for next year. And with corn left out longer than normal, standability scores will garner plenty of attention as well.

All this to consider and we haven’t even talked about YIELD! It’s still the most important factor. A hybrid may have all the above issues covered off, but if it gives up too much yield, it’s a deal breaker.

For me, yield data is becoming increasingly valuable and I look to four sources: my own yield data collected by the yield monitor on the combine, local grower plots - both independent and seed company related, and government/university supported trial data. Lastly, I talk to my neighbors and find out what they planted and how it performed.

The web is proving to be a perfect resource for yield data collection and access. Before I came to work for Farms.com, I worked in the print side of ag media – it drove me crazy that I couldn’t get yield data in my publication because it simply cost too much, and it took too long to get it in farmers’ hands. That’s why we’ve built the Farms.com Yield Data Center (www.yielddata.farms.com). It started last year as a pilot project for corn and soybean yields in Ontario, Canada. This year we expanded it to include canola and added Western Canada and Quebec to the geographic coverage. Next year, we’re bringing it to the U.S.

The concept is simple, but valuable. Provide a platform for companies, organizations and farmers to present local yield data results so producers can go to one site and get a good handle on local yields in general, and also see how specific seed products are performing. This beats having to go to numerous corporate sites to try and find out how the local plot that you’ve driven by all summer performed. Companies like to aggregate data, but knowing local performance is more valuable to me because I know the soil, the weather and sometimes even the farmer who put in the plot.

I encourage you to check out the site at www.yielddata.farms.com. There is a wealth of canola data available for Western Canadian growers. Soybean numbers are also available and there will be more to come. Corn data is just starting to trickle in, but there will be many more coming as corn harvest progresses.

My yield results so far show that corn hybrid selection was the most important management decision I made last year. Local data is powerful – arm yourself with as much of it as you can before choosing seed for next year.


Peter Gredig

Follow me on Twitter. I am Agwag.
This commentary is for informational purposes only. The opinions and comments expressed herein represent the opinions of the author--they do not necessarily reflect the opinion of Farms.com. This commentary is not intended to provide individual advice to anyone. Farms.com will not be liable for any errors or omissions in the information, or for any damages or losses in any way related to this commentary.

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Comment by John Beardsley on December 9, 2009 at 6:53pm
OMG western Bean Cutworm...the sky is falling ...no wait that is just my pioneer seed rep trying to sell a 70 percent solution to a pest that won't even likely be at threshold levels for a couple of years. Guess they just want to help all the Monsanto partners (DeKalb,croplan,hyland etc.) have a great launch with smart stax which also has the herculex gene and 70 % control of the few wbc that might be even present next year. by the time w.b.cutworm is an actual economic problem viptera from syngenta will be available. Nice ad campaign pioneer. thanks for supporting farm media. too bad you reputation for an truthful relatively unbiased source of agronomic info took a kickin from all the "noise"

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