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Start Planning Your 2013 Season Now

03:51AM Sep 17, 2012

This fall is a prime time to get your production game plan under way for next year.

Baseball legend Babe Ruth once said that with every strike he made when up to bat he was one swing closer to a home run. In all, the Sultan of Swat slugged 714 homeruns. Yet, Ruth also struck out 1,330 times during his storied career. But strikes never held the Babe back. A fearless competitor, Ruth simply kept swinging, confident he would eventually connect with the ball.

Agronomic experts hope farmers tap into that same confident optimism as they plan for next year, despite the corn production strike outs many endured this season. The following recommendations are ideas for your consideration as you create your production game plan for 2013.

Don’t overreact to the drought.

Nick Burley

Nick Burley plants up to 14 corn hybrids on his north west Iowa farm each year. That practice helps him minimize crop risks by spreading corn maturity ranges, flowering dates and even planting timing.

This is not a year on which to base huge changes in agronomic practices or management styles, the experts say. As you plan, evaluate multiple years of data when possible to make sound decisions and avoid knee-jerk reactions.

That’s advice Nick Burley is following despite enduring two straight years of drought on his north west Iowa farm.

"I’m sticking with my corn-bean rotation; that’s what works best on these soils," says Burley, who farms a few miles north of Lake City.

A slight shift in planting populations may be the one modification Burley makes in 2013. "I’m considering lowering my planting populations from 34,000 to the high 20s to minimize the potential for down corn next year," he says.

Order hybrids yesterday.

If you haven’t ordered your hybrids yet, make that step a priority now. Even major seed suppliers are likely to be short on some products for 2013, contends Darren Hefty, who co-owns Hefty Seed Company, Baltic, S.D., with his brother, Brian. Many seed providers will increase their production efforts in South America this winter to meet demand; however, delays in getting seed back to the United States are not uncommon as farmers learned this year. Bottom line for next season: The earlier you select and pay for your corn hybrids, the better off you’ll likely be.

As you evaluate hybrids, focus on multiple-year research that indicates the ones you plan to select will perform well across a wide range of growing conditions.

"Because you do not know what set of extreme weather events will occur next year, this is an important way to stress-proof your farming operation," says Bob Nielsen, Purdue University Extension corn specialist.

In addition, select a range of hybrids in order to spread maturity range, flowering dates and even planting timing, recommends Steve Gauck, regional sales agronomist for Beck’s Hybrids. This strategy will help you minimize the risk to your corn crop from weather extremes, such as high temperatures at pollination, a stress that did in a lot of corn this summer.

"Hybrid performance was all about timing in 2012," adds Mike Kavanaugh, AgriGold agronomy manager. "In each corn growing geography, planting date coupled with hybrid maturity made a huge difference in corn this year." he explains.

In some cases, Kavanaugh recalls, "You could see a 100-bushel difference between maturities in any given latitude depending on whether the hybrid was shooting or pollinating before, during or after those 105-degree temperatures we had"

Tune into hybrid characteristic scores and match them to your fields, encourages Justin Welch, DuPont Pioneer agronomist for Illinois and Indiana. "Some fields will benefit from more drought-tolerant hybrids, but even in a tough year like this we learned that we don’t need them on every acre," Welch says.

To spread production risks, Burley plants 14 different hybrids from three seed companies, with maturities that range from early season to late season. Plus, every field he plants contains a minimum of two hybrids. He believes those two practices are what contributed most to corn yields he had the past two seasons.

Secure inputs.

While seed supply may be a main concern for 2013, don’t neglect securing inputs such as fertilizers and herbicides earlier rather than later, recommends Darren Hefty.

"On the chemical side, there was a tremendous shortage of Liberty herbicide this year, and there’s probably not going to be enough capacity to meet demand for next year," Darren contends.

He adds that he anticipates the supply of glyphosate will also be tight, based on high application levels farmers used this season to control weeds.

Read Part 2: "3 Agronomic Ways to Leave the Drought Behind"