Corn Seed Traits Stack the Options

seeds stacked

Since the 1990s, the positive impact of biotechnology on agriculture, and especially corn production, has allowed growers to dramatically reduce input costs, labor, and time in the field. Andrew Usher, Federated Agronomist at the Isanti location, noted that biotech has produced traits in corn - and other seed - that make farming more efficient, reduce the risk of yield loss, and allow producers to grow their operation.

Though only a few of big-name companies researched and developed these industry-changing seed traits, "nearly every corn seed brand on the market carries licenses and products containing those traits," said Usher. And with every passing year of research and development, the biotechnology of seed traits makes it an even greater challenge to make wise hybrid selections.

"The key," said Usher, "is to match your trait packages with the unique qualities of the field, such as insect pressure, rotation, and yield." He offered these examples:

If you rotate cover crops and row crops, and insect pressure is low, you might not need to consider rootworm and other below ground traits in your package. If your issues are above ground, there are many options for protection against corn borer and broad lepidopteran (earworm, armyworm, cutworm, etc.).

If you are in a consistent corn-on-corn routine or intensive two crop rotation (grass to grass) with past insect pressure, you may want to consider multiple modes of action (above and below-ground) to decrease the risk of resistance and yield loss.

Because of the impact of weeds on yield, weeds play significantly into seed trait selection. The Roundup Ready ®  trait is still "very effective when the chemistry is tank- or pre-mixed with other modes of action, [but] weed resistance is becoming an issue," he said. Other weed control traits need to be added to the prescription. "Liberty® (glufosinate) is a broad spectrum contact herbicide that covers down on broadleaf and grassy weeds with little known current resistance issues," said Usher.

Additional new products continue to become available, such as Enlist®, and the trait stacks and options continue to grow. The Federated Agronomists are well positioned to help create field-to-field prescriptions that can be the difference between profit and loss.

As with other essential crop inputs, the investment is as important as the return. Take time to evaluate past problems and pests and "know what level of trait protection is needed," said Usher. Talk to your Federated Agronomist to learn more about seed traits as you prepare for the 2018 growing season.