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Ask your seedsmen plenty of questions

We’ve encouraged you to proceed cautiously when adding new hybrids or varieties. Add only a small percentage of new hybrids each year. Make sure you’ve seen the hybrids growing in person. Seek yield data that backs up performance claims.

President Theodore Roosevelt’s famous line, “Speak softly, but carry a big stick,” comes to mind. Speaking softly compares to making lineup changes cautiously. The “big stick” is a well-put-together set of observations and data about new products.

Key Points

• Throw away your previous playbook for buying seed.

• Selecting hybrids and varieties today is a brand-new ballgame

• Insist on seeing products in plots and demand yield data.


Implementing this strategy gets tougher every year. The rate of release of new genetics, not even considering traits, has exploded.

Most test plot summaries once carried columns for two- and three-year averages. Some still do, but genetics turn over so fast today that multiple-year data may be tough to get.

New challenge

We’re talking about a fundamental shift in seed marketing. The amount of information you can get on new hybrids is likely much less than before. The competition between major players is so keen that there appears to be a temptation to pull hybrids and varieties off the developmental pipeline sooner than in the past.

Staying on the cutting edge and not the bleeding edge is a real challenge. Use commonsense judgment to turn the plethora of fantastic genetic combinations into a plus, not a possible pitfall.

The days of buying seed based on who gives free hats and jackets, serves the best meals or takes you on trips are over. Today, you must select the most reliable genetics possible for each field on your farm to stay profitable. Don’t be tempted by freebies!

Develop strategy

Here’s a six-step strategy toward making informed choices.

• First, develop a relationship and build trust with the salesman taking your order.

• Second, find out as much as he or she will tell you about how a particular hybrid or variety performs. Don’t be afraid to ask the tough questions. If they have your best interests at heart, they will find the answer. Value someone who says they don’t know rather than making statements they can’t back up.

• Third, ask for actual yield data. Surely the hybrid or variety was included in replicated plots at a number of locations before release. Satisfy yourself that plots were set up correctly.

• Fourth, ask if hybrids offered with traits were tested against isolines. Those are hybrids with the same base genetics, but without the trait.

• Fifth, make every effort to see the hybrid or variety in person during the growing season. You’re the best judge of characteristics such as ear height, stalk size, disease tolerance and overall appearance. If there are no plots nearby, ask why not. Be relentless!

If you didn’t see hybrids or varieties seedsmen are asking you to buy last season, the best you can do now is ask pointed questions. Find out how the product handled key diseases and insects.

• Finally, if you can’t get data from multiple locations but still want to try new products, only plant a few acres. Compare them to proven hybrids in your own test plot. Study them carefully so you’ll be in a better position to make buying decisions next year.

Nanda is a crops consultant who writes from Indianapolis. His e-mail is: dave.nanda@gmail.com.

This article published in the March, 2010 edition of MID-SOUTH FARMER.

All rights reserved. Copyright Farm Progress Cos. 2010.