Eric Wappel is a third generation farmer in North Judson, Indiana. He, his brother and his father all handle the operation now, focusing mostly on corn, soybeans and mint. He is growing several conventional corn hybrids from the F2F Genetics Network for 2019. We talked to him about making this decision and what it’s been like for his operation during a challenging crop production year.
Sally Krueger, FBN: What are you looking for when you're selecting hybrids for your farm?
Eric Wappel, Indiana Farmer: Well, I like to diversify the corn hybrids and plant a lot. I love seeing different types of corn grow. I think I'm at around 32 different hybrids this year. It's a little bit obnoxious sometimes. Every fall I say I'm only going to grow these three or four, but then come winter time, I'm ordering all different types. But you can't just do it all for fun. In the end, it's all about return on investment. So you’ve got to look at the price. There are certain seed companies just cost too much. I won't even look at them. Other ones, I'll try if they are a decent price, and take it to yield and see what happens.
SK: Tell me how you balance the decision to plant traited corn and conventional corn hybrids on your farm.
EW: I try to plant as much conventional as I can manage. Most of the conventional corn ends up in the larger fields under irrigation. With irrigation, I'm probably gonna make a fungicide application trip anyway, making it a lot more cost effective to throw the insecticide pass in there, too. This usually happens about the same time as Western bean cutworm, which is our biggest pest. And some of the traited products don't even protect for that anyway. A lot of the double-stacked products are starting to miss them. I keep the traited products in our smaller fields that are harder to get the airplane on and probably won’t get a fungicide pass anyway.
SK: Do you approach fertility any differently with conventional corn than you do in your traited corn?
EW: No. It’s still corn. The traits just protect the yield. So you just have to protect the yield in a different way. But fertility-wise, it's exactly the same.
SK: What about your chemistry plan? Any differences there?
EW: We rarely use glyphosate on corn. We grow glyphosate-tolerant soybeans, so we didn't want to have glyphosate after glyphosate and so on. What we’ve typically done on most acres is a one pass pre-emerge. But there are some trouble acres, our higher organic matter soils, where we come back with a post emergent spray prior to the corn crop reaching canopy.
SK: What were you looking for in F2F Genetic Network hybrids on your farm?
EW: I chose four maturities from the line up, after talking to the folks at Farmer2Farmer about the placement on them and what would work best for our area. They look good now. We’ll see what happens.
SK: When you think about buying a new hybrid, how motivated are you by price?
EW: Well, to get corn on my farm, it's got to be priced right, because I'm not going to try something new if it's more expensive than what I'm currently using. Then, based on the cost of the other corn I'm buying, we're going to take the yield performance and figure out the return on investment versus traited products in the past. As long as we can protect the yield on the conventional, they almost always beat the return on investment for the traited products on our farm.
SK: Why would you tell another farmer in your area to try conventional corn, especially if they haven’t planted it in awhile?
EW: Genetics absolutely create the yield. Traits protect it. And from my experience in my farm, every single test plot I've done, the more traits the corn has, the more yield drag there is in a non-insect environment.
If you haven't planted conventional a long time, I would challenge you to try at least some acres. It might mean higher management, if you’re in a zone with high rootworm pressure, corn borer or Western bean cutworm. You do have to scout a little harder. If you’re going to plant your corn and go to the lake, you should probably plant the most traits you can. Just for peace of mind. But I think with a little bit more management, you can get a lot higher return.
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