Tips to Increase Your Odds of ROI

Bob FoleyGuest blog by Bob Foley, Corn Breeder and Consultant

Like you and I, each corn hybrid responds and reacts to environmental changes. For example, I’m not a bright lights and heavy traffic sort of guy. Vegas is not my happy place. I perform my best in solitude with wide, open green spaces and lots of coffee. Withdraw the coffee, and it affects my demeanor!

Corn hybrids are similar. Think of a situation when a crop emerged perfectly. If adequate rain doesn’t fall, yield suffers. The inverse is also true. When too much rain falls and nitrogen leaches, yield also suffers. Sometimes weeds develop resistance to herbicide, and yield suffers due to competition for nutrients and water.

Many of the practices we implement to push ROI (return on investment equates to yield) have both positive and negative impacts: planting early, pushing populations, field drying, and adopting traits. Each of these practices can swing the outcome pendulum either way:

• Planting Conditions. Planting remains the most critical first step of a great corn crop. You need fit soil conditions. Just the right mix of not too dry or not too wet, no slabbing, and no wet holes allows you to plant better and seedlings to emerge faster. Planting depth and spacing is also key, so it’s important to check periodically.

• Planting Population. It’s critical to plant a hybrid thick enough to maximize returns, but there is also a point of diminishing returns. If the plants don’t receive enough food or water, yield suffers. Consider that every ear you make comes from its own “production plants,” and each plant needs to run at its optimum. Planting population must reflect your field’s history, food availability and soil
type(s).

• Field Drying. This choice combines many things, including cost to dry, availability of dryer and storage, as well as your marketing commitments. Pushing a hybrid’s relative maturity (RM) means you’ll harvest it later, which could allow you to experience in triplicate when it comes to field drying versus standability.

• Adopting Traits. Everyone has his or her own position on farming with or without traits, and I tend to be like Switzerland in this conversation. I just want good hybrids. However, I do believe the adoption of traits has changed the way we steward our farms. We don’t walk the fields like we used to and scout for weeds, insects and disease. The concept of “I paid for traits to protect my crop” has somewhat given us permission to stop walking the fields (even more so after pollination). That’s a huge gamble! Without walking the field – or even flying the field – we usually aren’t aware of trouble spots in a field until we sit in the combine seat.

Give a “seat at the table” to emergence, population, standability, traits, yield and genetics. Deal them in, too, because they respond to your management decisions. What can you learn from the 2018 crop that could be a game changer for 2019? Due to the unpredictable outcome of our decisions, it’s always best to play the odds by planting multiple hybrids and relying on multiple experiences. One plot, one year, one environment or one hybrid is not a covered bet. Spread the risk by relying on tried and true practices. Making minor adjustments here and there can reap huge payouts. Making drastic changes, however, is like pushing all your chips in before seeing the cards dealt.

Like I said, I’m not a Vegas kind of guy. I’m all about increasing my odds – and yours – of winning.