By Todd Jeffries, Vice President, Seed Genetics Direct
Last year, many companies chose not to host events. This year, many companies are returning to somewhat normal circumstances and holding pre-harvest field days again, which is a welcome change. Field days have a lot of valuable learning opportunities for growers, such as:
- What’s new? The turnover for new hybrids is now quicker than ever thanks to double-haploid breeding and CRISPR technology. Some groan at the high turnover rates of new hybrids and genetics, but the yield increases over the past decade or two are real, and that’s what’s driving the new hybrids hitting the market so quickly. Field days provide the opportunity for growers to see and touch many of the new hybrids and varieties that have come out in the past year. Growers can learn about each one individually and compare it with what they are currently growing. It’s an opportunity to see the product before you buy it.
- With Enlist and XtendFlex soybeans competing against each other in the market, field days are a great opportunity to weigh the pros and cons of each system and variety. You will want to note, though, if you attend a field day of a company selling only one trait package, you may get a slanted view about a specific trait compared to another trait on the market. University and third- party data help cut through that fog. No matter which bean technology you will plant in 2022, double and triple check the bag tag, variety, and bag to be sure you know what you are getting and you got what you wanted. This is especially important before you spray fields, and you may also want to verify seed tolerance with your seed professional. I have seen way too many bean fields sprayed with the wrong herbicide this year.
- I always encourage customers to go to multiple field days, not just the one nearest to their home. Plant height, ear height, and disease pressure can vary from plot to plot and area to area depending on the growing season and ground. For instance, I’ve seen a “short hybrid” be almost 12 feet tall in one plot, 10 feet in another, and less than 8 in another. Attending multiple field days will provide a broader perspective and deeper understanding of seed performance as you will see hybrids and varieties in multiple places and environments.
- Most importantly, ask questions. When looking at a new hybrid, ask about the disease resistance and if the plot was sprayed with a fungicide. A plot sprayed with a fungicide with multiple modes of action can skew your opinion of a hybrid or variety, especially if you’re in an area with higher disease pressure or if you aren’t spraying a fungicide. Also, it’s always good to know the planting date and the planting populations of plots. I know many growers throughout Ohio who had vomitoxin issues in their 2020 corn. Many hybrids were affected, but not all. Seedsmen and agronomists are at field days to help you, so be sure to ask questions and stay away from vulnerable hybrids.
- Last but not least, the food! Many companies will grill out, have a boxed lunch, or maybe even a snack. It’s our way of showing appreciation not only for your business, but also your friendship over the years. Sitting down with friends and neighbors and sharing ideas is never a bad thing. I once had a teacher in high school who always said, “A day during which you learn something will never be a wasted day.”
Stay healthy, stay safe, keep learning!