The long line of pickups and cars filing down the dusty country road appears like a scene out of “Field of Dreams.”
In farm country, field days are as much a rite of summer as baseball. For farmers like Allen Sasse of Beason, Ill., scouting for new hybrids and varieties is still one of the best ways to develop a seed lineup for the coming season.
“As seed becomes more expensive, it’s even more important to scrutinize the selections,” Sasse says. He likes to try new technology, but the company also matters. “I prefer to deal with firms that stand behind their seed with good replant policies,” he adds.
Each summer, 7,000 to 8,000 people show up for Becknology Days, a cross between a field day and a festival, hosted by Beck’s Hybrids in Atlanta, Ind. There are activities for the entire family, but the event centers around a healthy serving of learning opportunities for growers, says Scott Beck, vice president of the company.
“We build the days around agronomy tours that look at herbicide plots and tillage comparisons. This year, we had a sub-irrigation/tile irrigation study that was very informative,” he says.
Tom Burrus of Burrus Hybrids, in Arenzville, Ill., says the social aspect is enjoyable but that it has become increasingly important for seed companies to offer farmers more than a good pork chop to win their loyalty. “With the explosion of product choices and technology, growers can be confused as to which products work best on their farm,” he says.
Hybrid sensitivity to chemicals and new recommended refuge choices are examples of information his company shares with growers.
“When advising growers how to select products, we often start with the herbicide program to be used. That narrows down the catalog significantly. Then we look at the genetic families that fit their soil type and planting population within the right maturity range. Technology—disease resistance and rootworm or corn borer protection—is next,” Burrus says.
“We also look at how the product is packaged and seed treatment needs. The final part is selecting the correct refuge hybrid to protect the technology.”
Check the data. Joe Lauer, an agronomist at the University of Wisconsin, agrees that local field days and company trials are helpful, but he urges growers to search as well for third-party verification and multiyear data from universities and independent advisers.
“If a hybrid fails in a trial, make sure you understand why,” Lauer says. “Next year’s environment cannot be predicted, but a hybrid that performs consistently is much less likely to disappoint you.”
Lauer says growers should avoid loading up on technology just because it’s new. In many areas of the U.S., typical corn-soybean rotations may not need a corn rootworm (CR) trait, for example.
“Where western corn rootworm variant or the northern corn rootworm with extended diapauses is present, growers should think hard about using Bt-CR technologies to manage these insects,” Lauer says.
- October 2010