Get a Prescription for Corn Hybrids

September 27, 2012 07:14 PM
Get a Prescription for Corn Hybrids

Monsanto's new system offers farmers corn hybrid prescriptions for each field


When Kip Tom started farming in 1974, he spent hours flipping through the Purdue University booklet showing corn hybrid field trial test results.

"I’d stare at those pages night after night," recalls Tom, who used the information to evaluate and select hybrids for his own farm.

But that’s no longer the process the Leesburg, Ind., farmer plans to use after seeing how FieldScripts can bolster yields. FieldScripts is Monsanto Company’s first product to come from its Integrated Farming Systems (IFS) platform and its first venture into what the company calls "seed by environment" farming.

This year, Tom was one of 42 farmers who beta-tested the setup, but it was his third season to evaluate the system in his own fields. FieldScripts offers farmers two key benefits, a variable-rate hybrid prescription by zone and a specific hybrid match for each field, according to John Raines, IFS commercial lead for the company.

Individualized solutions. For 2013, Raines says, Monsanto will double the number of farmers testing the product. In 2014, the company will launch FieldScripts on a limited basis through DeKalb seed dealers in Illinois, Iowa, Indiana and Minnesota.

"Today, farmers consult with their seed dealers about the best DeKalb hybrid for their farm. That process will continue, but the conversation will be much more individualized by field to meet that farmer’s needs," Raines says.

Farmers will continue to buy their DeKalb seed as normal, and then work with their dealer if they want to use the optional FieldScripts service. They will pay a per-acre fee, but prices have not yet been set.

Seed dealers will work with farmer customers to select fields they want to enroll in FieldScripts, says Ted Crosbie, Monsanto IFS strategy lead. From there, farmers will provide field boundaries, yield data and fertility test results to the dealers.

"It allows us to put more plants in the better parts of a field and fewer plants in poorer parts
of a field, thereby reallocating resources within the field to increase yields and profitability," Crosbie explains.

Using its seed-by-environment data, Monsanto delivers a variable-rate seeding prescription by yield management zone and a recommendation for the best hybrid for each field. The prescription is provided through Precision Planting’s FieldView app for the iPad in the farmer’s tractor.

To execute the FieldScripts program in 2014, there is an equipment standard for optimum planter performance that farmers will need, including Precision Planting’s 20/20 SeedSense monitor and one of the company’s down pressure control systems, either the AirForce or DeltaForce system.

"They also need a meter that plants with 99%-plus accuracy and hydraulic motors that run smooth," says Gregg Sauder, president and founder of Precision Planting. "We also encourage using row cleaners out front to clear a path for the planter."

In the next few years, farmers can expect to see more corn brands and crops added to the IFS platform, a paradigm shift in what’s possible at planting. When Robb Fraley, executive vice president and chief technology officer of Monsanto, looks into the future, he sees one planter delivering multiple hybrids, a mixture of racehorse and defensive hybrids, with one pass and impeccable precision.

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