Farmer Perspective: Update on Growing Conventional Corn and Specialty Soybeans from F2F Genetics

Zack Johnson is a fifth generation farmer, still working many of the same west-central Minnesota fields his great-great-grandfather did 143 years ago. Today, Zack and his father farm 2,600 acres of corn and soybeans. He also has a strong social media following as the Minnesota Millennial Farmer on YouTube. 

On our farms, we have planted traited corn and soybeans for the last 25 years. We’ve scaled it down recently—we aren’t planting all stacked traits like we were 8-10 years ago. Those trait stacks can get costly, so we started planting a lot of straight glyphosate-tolerant corn. However, we weren’t getting full control with glyphosate, so we started asking ourselves if we really even needed that trait. We decided that if we could find corn with good genetics that didn't have the glyphosate-tolerant trait but could yield up there with some of the other hybrids we've planted, why not see how it would work for our operation.

So that's what we’ve done in 2019. We've got some conventional corn that we're trying and 40 acres of non-GMO soybeans, a specialty item that will be available through FBN in the futurem and so far both look really good.

This year, F2F Genetics Network had two maturities that would work in our area. One was a little short and one was a little long, so we decided to plant some of each. We're stacking them up against some pretty tough competition. We split plant both with a competitor’s corn that we've planted a lot of the last five years and know well. We'll see how it compares, and we’ll compare the cost difference and see what is really going to provide a better return for us. The story has been yield for a long time now, but you have to think about your overall profits.

We didn’t need to change our chemical plan that much to go to conventional. We’ve stuck with what our plan has been in years past, but we just removed the glyphosate. And I’ve been watching the soybeans closely because I drive by them several times a day.  We put on a down a pre-emerge that's worked for us. But, it's the same stuff we put on the rest of our fields. And the fields have been really clean. We’ve had some grasses come through, but we have some chemistry set aside to spray for that, and I'm not worried about it at all.

Deciding to plant conventional corn and a specialty non-GMO soybean this year, there are three things I really want to keep an eye on:

  1. Making sure we have the right weed control. I need to know that if we were to go to larger scale (possibly all conventional or non-GMO) that we'd still be able to control our weeds.

  2. Choosing the right hybrid for us. We want to make sure we have something that provides a good return. And that could be a more affordable hybrid that may not out-yield a competitor, but still yields well enough to outdo the competitor on our bottom line.

  3. Finding a potential non-GMO market where I can sell directly as a non-GMO crop. I'm doing that with the small acreages that we have this year, but if we choose that right hybrid or variety for our operation and get our weed program figured out, I think a specialty market that provides a premium could provide an even bigger return in the future.

Stay tuned for more updates from Zach on growing conventional corn and specialty soybeans from F2F Genetics this season.
Read our recent Q&A with Zach Johnson, AKA the MN Millennial Farmer

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The views expressed in this article are the author's alone and not those of Farmer's Business Network, Inc., its affiliates or members.

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