F2F Genetics Network in the Field: Q&A with First-Year Conventional Corn Grower Matthew Swenson
Matthew Swenson farms among the rolling hills of Postville, Iowa. His farm is in a rotation of one-third beans and two-thirds corn, and this was his first year planting conventional corn from F2F Genetics Network. We talked to him about making this switch to conventional.
Sally Krueger, FBN: What made you want to make the switch to growing conventional corn hybrids?
Matthew Swenson, Iowa Farmer: The biggest reason I bought it was because of the price. I went from buying a $300 bag of traited corn, to a $99 bag of conventional corn, bringing my per acre seed cost down to about $30 an acre. That was our goal this year—to get our price per acre down as much as we could so that we could make a profit, based on the prices at the time we booked everything.
SK: How has the first year gone with conventional corn so far?
MS: Honestly, it looks as good as any crop we've ever grown. I mean, you can’t tell a difference. We did a pre-emergent chemical program on it, because we were worried about not being able to use glyphosate, and that has helped a lot.
SK: What were some of the specific considerations you looked at when you were selecting conventional corn hybrids to plant?
MS: It was a pretty big stress honestly. I didn’t know what the yield checks should be for this farm. But, I talked to other farmers around the area that were growing conventional, and you know, they have no problem doing it. What really sold me on it was the opportunity to sell it at a premium—a possible additional 15-20 cents a bushel. Those markets have been a little harder to find, though. I’ve been working with a few companies, as well as some farmers who grind non-GMO corn for feed, so I think we're going to be able to market a fair amount as non-GMO.
SK: When it comes to trying to decide about quality genetics and price, are you more motivated by yield, price, or both?
MS: When I think about seed, I try to look at what kind of yields they say I can get, and then I look at what we will most likely get and compare the prices. You would think that a more expensive bag of corn would give you higher yields, but that’s all in a perfect world. We probably can't grow those perfect yields on this farm. So, our goal this year was to get our breakeven down and pick the best conventional to do that.
SK: What did your chemical plan look like for conventional, compared to traited corn?
MS: For the conventional corn, we ran a pre-emergent with our nitrogen, we tilled it and we got it planted, with a plan to spray again at 8 inches tall. I was a little stressed about not having the option to spray glyphosate over the top, but honestly, our fields are actually cleaner doing a pre-emergent program. Having weedy fields was my biggest concern, and we haven’t had a problem with that at all.
SK: Some farmers have said they feel they need the traits to protect them from certain pests. What are your pest pressures like on this farm?
MS: We're going to be on fourth year corn in some of our fields, so, yes, there is some concern. That’s why we put an insecticide down with the corn. As long as you have the right rate of insecticide out, there's nothing to worry about. And, I’ll add that we bought our insecticide through FBN, at one-third the price of the local co-op.
SK: What would you tell a neighbor that was thinking about switching to conventional corn?
MS: I’d show him my cost per acre and what I got per acre on yield. I mean, that's going to be the decision maker at the end of the year—what we actually get out of it.
SK: You also planted some F2F Genetics Network soybean varieties this year? How have those done?
MS: They honestly look better than any beans we've planted. I have high hopes for them at harvest.
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