Thanks for checking out the last week of our “Ask the Agronomist” series! Read below for Mark’s response to this week’s question about seed selection for your 2017 planting season!

Crisp, cool mornings remind us that fall is just around the corner.  Time is of the essence!  Plan a successful harvest by scouting fields and evaluating standability.  Identify potential problem areas.  Note crop progress, as well as insect and disease pressure.  Pay particular attention to fields that were damaged by wind and hail, promoting stalk rot.

Q: Silage harvest is going strong and soon field corn will be ready to combine. What should Upper Midwest farmers keep in mind as they’re preparing for #Harvest16?

A: There are 3 things to keep in mind for the harvest season: (1) Assess crop progress. (2) Develop a harvest plan. (3) Make sure your equipment is ready to go.

A good plan outlines which fields to harvest first. The main consideration when contemplating your harvest order is focusing on fields exhibiting potential for Stalk Rot and subsequent Stalk Lodging. Secondary concerns include hybrid maturity, crop residue management and logistical concerns.

Q: Let’s talk about hybrid maturity. It looks like harvest is going to be early this fall.

A: All of those warm summer days pushed along maturity this season. Wet, humid conditions have also created ideal conditions for leaf diseases and some stalk rots in corn, as well as Sudden Death in soybeans. In other areas of Latham’s sales territory, drought conditions will cause an early harvest. Make sure you check machinery and conduct necessary maintenance well ahead of the expected harvest date. I have witnessed farmer who, due to conditions like Stalk Rot, should have harvested a week earlier than they actually did.  They simply weren’t prepared for an earlier harvest, and as a result, they lost thousands of dollars’ worth of crops that could have been saved.

Q: How can farmers determine which fields are in jeopardy of downed corn?

A: Check stalk strength and integrity by pinching the lower internodes on the plant and feel for weakness.  Also, the root mass can affect the plant’s ability to stand up against late-season winds.  Roots can be more of an issue than stalks in a wet growing season like we experienced.  Saturated soils limit the growth of root hairs and brace roots, making the total root mass much smaller.  If those plants grow close to full size, that puts a lot of stress on the plant later in the year –either it may not have the ability to take up enough nutrients or the plants may lodge if there is a late-season wind or wind and rain event.

Q: Even before this crop gets harvested, farmers are already planning for their next crop year. What advice do you have as farmers are making their seed corn decisions now?

A: I like to recommend that a farmer chooses seed corn not only for certain plant characteristics but also by maturity. Relative maturities are just that –relative. Accumulated Growing Degree Units (GDUs) determine whether full crop maturity comes early or late in a year. Different hybrids react differently to growing conditions, too. That’s why I recommend planting 50% of one’s corn acres to the normal maturity for that area with 25% of the acres planted to an earlier maturity and 25% to a later maturity. Planting a portfolio of hybrids each year maximizes your chances of a good harvest.

Q: I’ve noticed in your seed product guide that it lists whether hybrids move north or south out of its zone. What does this mean?

A: Our product team spends countless hours taking field notes about hybrid characteristic, such as how it emerges and when it flowers. When you talk about moving out of zone, we look at when that hybrid flowers. If a hybrid flowers early for its relative maturity (RM), that hybrid typically moves north better than south. A hybrid that flowers late usually moves better south of its zone. A few hybrids are neutral, so they can move north or south well. Maturity is also a determining factor when corn must be replanted later because obviously the length of its growing season has been shortened.

Q: What types of research does Latham Seeds use to determine relative maturity, as well as to select products for its lineup?

A: As far as where do we get the info for rating our releases, we take into consider our sales representative’s recommendations along with our SuperStrips information. These SuperStrip trials split our corn lineup into maturity groups and are conducted on our home research farm in North Central Iowa, as well as on more than 70 of our dealers’ and customers’ farms throughout the Midwest.

Q: What else would you like to add? A: Learn more about Seed Treatments, New Corn and Soybean Technologies and Corn Hybrid Stress Research at Latham’s home farm on Wednesday, Aug. 31. We’ll be giving tours of our research plots, and Latham® seed grower Phil Pitzenberger will demonstrate how Drone Technology is improving operations on his family farm. Visit for more details!