OLIVIA, Minn. — Blue skies, bright sunshine and comfortable temperatures greeted Brevant Seeds dealer representatives to a Sept. 3 event hosted by Brad Pietig. I had an opportunity to sit down with Brevant Retail Product Agronomist Seth Kveno for a quick question-and-answer session. Kveno brings with him about 20 years in this constantly pulsating seed industry. His business card reads, “The BOLD new future of the seed industry has a name. It’s SETH.”
The Land: What four key areas should farmers be visualizing for Crop Year 2021?
Kveno: Bottom line profitability is perhaps always number one. That starts with aggressive marketing. A few years ago when we had $5 to $7 corn, a few cents when you sell didn’t matter so much. Not so today, however. Now even a few cents can make or break a farming operation going into the new year.
Number two? A firm cropping plan which includes a trusted crop advisor: your local retailer, or a crop consultant.
Number three would be implementing that plan with your local provider doing agronomic inputs of fertilizer, necessary fungicides and seed selections with appropriate trait technologies and high-yielding genetics.
And number four would be proper equipment. I believe the importance of how and where to place each seed and all other inputs has now come to a peak.
The Land: We read and hear good yields begin with good roots. But as we witnessed today at this show plot event, there is so much more. Please explain.
Kveno: What you saw today are new Brevant corn and soybean varieties available for 2021. You’ve heard the line, ‘Today’s hybrids start with 500-bushel potentials right out of the bag.’ Yes, that’s doable and a few have succeeded. But that reality includes a host of additional practices starting with superior genetics, proper seed placement in well-drained soils, then protecting your investment with insecticides and perhaps rootworm technologies too.
However, this all hinges on being a good steward of your crop … watching it closely throughout the growing season to identify any potential issues, and correcting as needed. Gone are the days when you could plant, spray with Roundup, then head to the lake for a few days of fishing and loafing. We keep uncorking new management issues and new ideas on how to maximize production. Yes, ‘crop smarts’ is a never-ending challenge; and hopefully linked to never-ending rewards too!
The Land: We also hear it’s been a good year for corn rootworm beetles — especially egg laying this fall?
Kveno: I agree — especially in the eastern part of Minnesota because of increasing continuous corn acres. We’re seeing a fair amount of corn rootworm activity and also heavy numbers of beetles.
Yes, partly to blame is farmer neglect. Many don’t use soil-applied insecticides, or aren’t planting corn-rootworm traited products. Plus the economy has given pause to whether they should spend that additional money. However, now we are seeing an elevated amount of beetle-feeding on corn ear tips, and succulent silks still coming out.
So if you were seeing this activity in your fields this fall, be vigilant this coming year. That’s why I can see an increase in corn rootworm-treated corn sales this season; and/or insecticide treatments — whichever route a producer decides. If 2021 continues to look like a stronger market year for corn, we want to protect every bushel to harvest.
The Land: With farm economists advising profits start with lowering production costs, how do you advise root protection?
Kveno: This goes back to your local fertilizer source providing a sulfa insecticide — if you have that opportunity. Not all new planters are set up with that capability today because many growers decided against that protection. So that may leave you focusing on rootworm technologies within the seed industry today.
EPA now mandates all rootworm technologies are ‘pyramid stacked’ which means there is no single mode of action. However ‘trait stacks’ on Brevant hybrids prolong the efficacy of the rootworm protection.
My advice: always protect your investment with proper seed choices. Here in southern Minnesota we too often see corn tipping over because of overly aggressive winds. And that happens more easily if you have rootless corn because of corn rootworms.
The Land: So should I even question purchasing trait-free hybrids and low cost seed?
Kveno: Every situation needs to be evaluated separately. Today, many of our customers now perform at high management levels which might include soil-applied insecticides and close monitoring of the corn fields for corn borer infestations. In that situation, gambling on a non-treated corn might be a financial advantage. If their fields don’t have a corn borer history, they may gamble and win. However, in my travels across southern Minnesota the past couple of years, I’m seeing a ramping-up of corn rootworm beetle activity. I firmly believe we should be protecting that investment — especially with the today’s seed costs.
The Land: This spring, virtually all corn was April planted; lots of soybeans too. So you see the same thing next year if weather permits?
Kveno: It seems my answer should be, ‘why not?’ But it really boils down to each operation having the right investment in equipment, field drainage and appropriate genetics. Seedling vigor and early emergence are always part of our vetting processes. However, increased performance in other areas is critical too. However, as we’ve all witnessed, today’s hybrids can better handle a few days of colder, wet soil conditions too.
The Land: So with a more favorable outlook brewing, should growers increase corn acres for 2021?
Kveno: This depends upon geography. Looking at southern Minnesota counties such as Renville, Sibley and Blue Earth — which are blessed with good soils — market outlooks into this 2021 crop year will pretty much dictate crop acres of both corn and soybeans. But how the political landscape looks after November elections may also influence famers’ thinking. I’m talking specifically foreign trade actions. If farmers see some positives in this unpredictable future, I could see some shifting back towards a two-thirds corn, one-third soybean schedule for 2021.