From the Seed Shed – Tough Decisions Getting Tougher

Larry Veith, Seed Specialist (507) 923-5628
As we wrap up the 2018 harvest season and begin to prepare for the 2019 cropping year, I am sure many of you are asking the following question to yourselves and neighbors; “what the heck happened to the crop in 2018?” After experiencing some of the best crop yields in both corn and soybeans we have ever seen in our lifetimes in 2016 and 2017, we overall took a step backwards this past growing season. Why?

Looking back we all know hindsight is 20/20, but I feel it is good to review some of the things that happened to begin to understand what we can do different going forward, and what we chalk up to Mother Nature just being herself.

Another factor to consider more closely is lower than normal fertilizer application rates being applied this spring due to continued low commodity prices. We all know that you “can’t squeeze blood out of a turnip”, and that expecting continued high yields while cutting back on fertilizer is not sustainable. In looking at a composite of soil samples taken by All American Co-op from 2003 to 2018, our P and K levels have dropped significantly; 16% for Phosphorus and 18% for Potash. Although it may not sound like much, it is when looking at the increasing yields we have seen since then. Looking at USDA statistics our average corn yield in Minnesota was 146 bushel/acre in 2003, and up to a high of 193 bushel/acre in 2016, or roughly a 32% increase. Soybean yield increases have been even more dramatic, jumping from 31 bushel/acre in 2003 to 52 bushel/acre in 2017, or almost 68%. Yet two of the more significant nutrient levels ( P & K ) are going down. Perhaps at those 2003 fertility yield levels, we were at a place in time where significant yield increases should have been expected. Better equipment, weed control and genetic traits being introduced into corn and soybeans plants all helped move yields significantly higher. What a day! Producers have literally taken the ball and run to record production. But it does beg the questions; at what point can we cut, to what extent, and still keep the yields we have become accustomed to in recent years? Are we trying to drive a Porsche on E85 gasoline, or was this year a phenomenon? I can’t tell you today; only time will tell us for sure. What I will tell you is, TOUGH DECISIONS ARE GETTING TOUGHER.

Hybrid selection for 2019
Making hybrid and variety selections for the 2019 growing season have not been made any easier based on the 2018 crop year; if anything, things just got a whole lot tougher. How much stock can you put on what you saw this year and not ask yourself, “What are the chances of a year like this repeating itself next year?” My answer would be a simple, “slim to none”. If we have learned anything, it is to expect the unexpected. But one thing most of us have learned is that no two years back to back are ever alike, at least here in Minnesota. Look at as much data as you can from as many locations in our growing region as possible, and don’t assume that because a hybrid didn’t perform up to your expectations it means you did not make the right selection this year. We all know weather has the biggest impact on yield, and we can’t control that.

Visiting with your seed specialist or agronomist is the first step in getting comprehensive yield and performance data. We have training from and access to private seed company agronomists and product specialists to ensure we are doing the best job of placing the right seed on your farm. Individual and replicated seed company plots as well as our own internal plots from your farms help us understand what is working and what is not, regardless of the brand. All American Co-op handles multiple seed brands to make sure we can give you the best selection of hybrids and varieties that work in our area. Those brands including DeKalb corn, Asgrow soybeans, NK(corn/soybeans/Enogen grain/silage), Mycogen soybeans and grain corn(also TMF, BMR and UNIFIED silage corn), and Croplan corn(grain and silage)soybeans and alfalfa provide you with the best of what the seed industry has to offer.

Every brand has specific financing programs, seed special programs and cash and volume discounts that keep our seed line-up productive and affordable for you. Please remember we are here to serve you and your agronomic needs both for 2019 and in the future. We sincerely thank you for your business, and wish you and your family Happy Holidays and a prosperous New Year!

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