Farmer Perspective: "Everybody Talks About Big Yields, but They Don't Tell You What Their Profit Was”
Dennis Anderson farms in the Flint Hills of eastern Kansas. He farms a wide variety of crops, including corn, soybeans, wheat and milo, and utilizes cover crops as well. He is also interested in soil health and has been farming no-till for 15-20 years. He planted conventional corn hybrids from the F2F Genetics Network this year.
It’s been about 20 years since I last planted conventional corn. When they first came out, traits were very economical for what we got. But the price feels like it just keeps going up and the traits still are what they are. But the price of corn hasn't increased as much... it's like we're paying quite a bit for something we might not need.
In recent years, I started to wonder if maybe we were spending too much on traits. But it felt like that was the best way to get the newer genetics. Traits aren’t bad. And depending on your rotation, there are times that you might require them.
Sometimes, it’s hard to determine whether or not we need traited corn. I plant glyphosate tolerant corn. I’ve got some other traited corn. Traits are a tool I can use in the right place at the right time.
Not using traits forces you to manage more... in a good way. You don’t just spray some glyphosate to make sure you got it all. You’re scouting. You’re doing your homework. You’re identifying weeds. You’re sizing your corn. And the same goes with bugs.
Yes, there’s more management to it, but that’s where the profit is, too. If you want it to be easy, though, you should buy the easy button.
Choosing the Right Conventional Corn Hybrids
For me, seed selection all comes back to profit per acre, which is going to be very closely tied to yield and price of the seed. There's no need to pay extra for a product that's just as good. I don’t only care what it costs—I care how much profit I can make from it.
Everybody wants to go to town and talk about big yields, but they don't tell you what their profit was. And that's what it's got to come down to. We're gonna look at yield and then we're going to look at the price of the seed. And you've got to figure that out. There's a point where the highest yield isn't the most profitable. We've got to get away from that thinking. The big companies want us to believe higher prices leads to better genetics.
Here lately we've been paying more for traits than just genetics because that's the easy sell. In our minds, the newest one is the best one. It’s probably true that better genetics have contributed as much as anything to the up trend in our yields, but not if you're forced into buying traits that we don’t necessarily need. We have been willing to pay more in the recent past because we really didn't have an option.
With seed products from the F2F Genetics Network, we get a choice.
Managing Conventional Corn In-Season
As far as weed control on our conventional corn, we just make sure we utilize the full rates in our burndown. We’re no-till already, so we definitely want to start out with a clean seed bed. We’re scouting earlier; we’re getting ahead of things before they become a big problem. In our corn, the only thing we really struggle with is grass. It’s pretty easy to knock everything else out.
We scout for insects, but we won’t do an insecticide shot until we need it. When you spray, you’re often taking out the beneficials, so I don’t want to do that unless we have to. Cover crops are helping a lot as well—for weeds and bugs. We have to get away from the mentality of always relying on chemicals. We need to start using everything else in our toolbox. There are some newer chemistry's out there that we didn't have 20 or 30 years ago; those might be helpful tools. Putting management back into it is a great way to shave off expenses, and I think we’ve been able to do that.
I definitely don't have all the answers, but I’ve had people ask me about planting conventional corn, and I tell them it’s a great tool, and could be a good fit for their farm. Only they will know that, but there are a lot more options out there today than there used to be.
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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.