Drought conditions have dominated the crop management and agronomic advice this past growing season (Figure 1). Rightly so, as this is the most extreme drought seen in many areas since 2012. This is not the first drought agriculture has been through, and it certainly will not be the last. But, does that mean we should plan on a repeat for next season? (Spoiler alert: the answer is no.)
Whenever I evaluate a situation, I try to remind myself to understand what biases I might have before offering up a solution. Maybe I’m evaluating a plot and write off a product because I saw it root lodge in a field a year ago, or it might be that one of my kids got in an argument at school and I find out that the other student’s parent is the one whose social media posts sound like nails on a chalkboard to me.
We are all human, and biases are inescapable. The best way we can manage our biases is to be aware of them and understand if they are helping a situation or hindering our ability to come to an optimal conclusion.
One of my first jobs out of school was as a commodities broker, and I remember a graphic depicting the emotional rollercoaster of grain marketing. The visual showed a farmer and his excitement as prices rose, and then his fear as prices plummeted. This emotional rollercoaster is an example of recency bias. If we have witnessed prices rising for the last week, there is a tendency to hold off selling any grain because we believe the trend will continue, and there are higher profits to be captured.
Recency bias can have the same impact on an individual as we select our inputs for next year’s crop. Having just come out of a drought where yields were less than optimal, there are many questions about cutting back on fertilizer because the crop didn’t use everything applied. Furthermore, very defensive products may have had an advantage over others this year, and there is a desire to move forward with only the toughest products.
To address the fertility question: a 50% crop does not directly correlate to a 50% nutrient use. Because of variability throughout a field, I recommend soil sampling to know for sure what you have out there. Composite samples are a good place to start, but grid sampling is the best way to go. Try to use the smallest sample area possible (2-acre grids are better than 5-acre grids, and 1-acre grids are better than 2-acre grids). Another underutilized sample is a deep (12 to 24-inches) sample. This is likely where you might find some additional unused nitrogen. Soil sampling is an investment that helps to ensure you are spending your money in the right places. If your goal is to grow profitable bushels, then soil sampling and analysis are fundamental.
While Channel® brand develops some products to excel on the tough acre and handle stressed growing conditions, these products may also lack top end yield potential under good management and favorable growing conditions. That said, some top performing products also showcase above average drought tolerance.
Regardless of previous drought conditions, it is still important to review local and regional product performance data and select products based on the characteristics required for each field. The characteristics can include disease tolerance, adaptability to soil type, standability, herbicide and insecticide traits, relative maturity, early season vigor, and root strength.
Your Channel Seedsman is a great resource for reviewing and selecting adapted corn products for next year.
Licht, M. Corn hybrid selection. Integrated Crop Management. Iowa State University. https://crops.extension.iastate.edu/encyclopedia/corn-hybrid-selection/.
Web site verified 9/27/22.
ALWAYS READ AND FOLLOW PESTICIDE LABEL DIRECTIONS. Performance may vary, from location to location and from year to year, as local growing, soil and weather conditions may vary. Growers should evaluate data from multiple locations and years whenever possible and should consider the impacts of these conditions on the grower’s fields. Channel® and the Arrow Design® and Seedsmanship At Work® are registered trademarks of Channel Bio, LLC. Bayer and Bayer Cross are registered trademarks of Bayer Group. All other trademarks are the property of their respective owners. ©2022 Bayer Group. All rights reserved.