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6 Questions To Help Plan Your 2015 Corn Strategy

Despite picture-perfect weather in many areas, 2014 wasn’t without peril. Prolific rainfall peppered areas like northwestern Iowa. Disease thrived. Meanwhile, plunging crop prices zapped 2014 profit potential.
So what’s up for 2015? Here are some questions –with answers – you’ll face next year.
1. Is there enough seed?
Yes. Excellent growing conditions for commodity corn extended to seed corn this year. Even so, though, you might want to lock in early if you want to plant a high-demand hybrid. “There will not be an infinite supply,” says Jeff Hartz, Wyffels Hybrids director of marketing.
2. Crop prices are lower. Are seed prices?
No. The good news is, overall, prices remain stable. “For the third year in a row, Wyffels prices overall are flat,” says Hartz. “New products and genetics are still at the top of the market and are up a few dollars, but 30% of our products took a 10% decline in price.”
The reality is that commodity corn prices don’t have as dramatic of an impact on the cost to produce seed corn as youmight think, says Hartz. The pricing of a new hybrid for 2015 started during its development six to seven years ago. Investments in techniques like molecular breeding investments and trait royalties continue, whether corn prices are $3.50 or $7 per bushel. Unfortunately, a down year of commodity prices won’t greatly impact prices, as companies need to recoup their investment.
Still, you need to make a buck, too. In the early 2000s, premium seed cost around $80 to $100 per bag, says Joe Lauer, University of Wisconsin Extension agronomist. Now, it can be triple or quadruple that amount.
“Prices that differ by more than $50 to $100 per bag must be carefully considered, because it is difficult to make up the difference with increased yield,” says Lauer.
Early-order discounts are one way to shave costs. Ditto for selective trait investment.
“In some areas of Iowa, Minnesota, and Illinois, the risk is too great to go without rootworm protection,” says Hank King, U.S. corn marketing leader for Mycogen Seeds. “There are areas with low rootworm pressure. In these cases, products without a trait that resists corn rootworm may be in order.”
Don’t focus solely on price, though. Yield potential is still a driving factor for hybrid selection, notes Jeff Coulter, University of Minnesota (U of M) Extension agronomist.
In 2006-2013 U of M trials at Morris, Minnesota, 45- to 67-bushel-per-acre differences existed between the 10 highest-yielding and the 10 lowest- yielding hybrids. Paying less for a low-yielding hybrid can be a costly mistake.
3. What’s a 2014 lesson for 2015?
Don’t till or plant wet fields. The resulting root impairment can haunt you for the rest of the year, says A.J.Woodyard, BASF technical service representative.
“Tillage operations under wet conditions can cause roots to grow horizontally instead of penetrating the soil profile,” he says.
Roots growing horizontally have difficulty accessing water and nutrients. Meanwhile, the resulting early compaction confounds rainfall trying to penetrate the soil. Options do exist for slow-drying fields.
“On gumbo soils, a vertical-tillage tool is less likely to create compacted layers,” Woodyard says. Proper closing wheels can also nix compaction at planting.
“The biggest thing, though, is setting up for success,” he says. That starts with staying off wet fields.
4. How do I pick 2015 hybrids?
Be diverse. “Planting a mix of hybrids is a tried-and-true, long-term philosophy that leads to success,” says Hartz.
After seeing the performance of some racehorse hybrids this year, that’s tough advice to follow. “Farmers and seed companies have a good gauge of which products can really blow yield off the top end,” he says.
Still, you don’t know if 2015 will mimic 2014. Planting a diverse mix can help hedge against unknown weather.
5. Should I apply a fungicide for 2015 corn disease control?
Yes, if the year mimics 2014. Disease thrived this year. “This year, the number one disease in corn was gray leaf spot (GLS),” says Randy Myers, Bayer CropScience fungicide product manager. That was a surprise. Normally, GLS thrives under warm temperatures, unlike the cool ones that reigned last summer.
Northern corn leaf blight (NCLB) also surfaced. Normally, NCLB infections occur later in the summer, during moderate temperatures (64 F. to 81 F.) and wet and humid weather.
Under cool and wetter-than-normal summers, though, NCLB may surface earlier.
“This year, northern corn leaf blight started six weeks earlier than normal,” says Myers.
With cool and wet conditions fueling NCLB, some farmers followed a fungicide application between tasseling and R2 with another one.
“Fourteen to 21 days later, if disease pressure remains high and if conditions are conducive to disease, another spray treatment can be beneficial,” says Myers. “Even at R5, disease can still impact corn yields.”
If corn prices remain at $3-per-bushel (and lower) levels, though, applying a fungicide is a tough sell.
So, what can you do? “You might do well to adopt a scout-and-spray philosophy, where you make a decision based on the disease situation at hand vs. a set plan at the start of the season,” says Mitch Heisler, agronomic marketing manager for Wyffels Hybrids.
6. How do I manage Goss’s wilt?
This disease, which originated in Nebraska, has moved eastward across Iowa and into Illinois and Indiana.
Since it’s a bacterial disease, fungicides don’t control Goss’s wilt. Planting a hybrid that tolerates Goss’s wilt is a good first step, says Jim McDermott, a Spencer, Iowa, DeKalb/Asgrow agronomist.
“Other techniques include rotating from corn to soy- beans,” he says. “Controlling residue through residue removal or tillage will also help break down the bacteria that causes Goss’s wilt.”

(Source – http://www.agriculture.com/crops/corn-high-yield-team/6-questions-to-help-pl-your-2015-cn_545-ar46460)

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