Dave Nanda's job was to tell farmers gathered at a seed corn meeting about what changes he would make for 2013 vs. 2012 if he was farming. Nanda, a long-time plant breeder, is a consultant and also director of genetics and technology for Seed Consultants, Inc.
It was a very short speech.
"We've seen a review about what happened in 2012 today and why corn reacted as it did," he began. "We were reminded and in some cases learned for the first time how much yield is lost as days of heat and drought stress pile up.
"My preference is to forget about 2012 and look toward 2013. Let's put 2012 in the rear view mirror and drive forward. My first impulse is to not change anything."
Having said that, Nanda hesitated. "However, there are a few exceptions. I think we could have learned a few things from 2012 that we ought to keep in mind as we go into a new season," he says. "Even in a terrible year you can pick up a few pointers that might help down the road.
"For example, it was obvious that planting too thick on lighter ground, not just sandy ground but soil types that aren't dark and good silt loam soil, can actually hurt yields in stress years. Planting more plants on good ground gives us the opportunity to bump up yields.
"I would come out of this thinking that if my planter was set up for variable-rate planting, I would consider trying it in 2013, at least on some acreage. If you've got light or sandy soils within a field but also good soil types, set the monitor so that the computer dials back rates on these lighter soils. Then you can plant more on the better soils," he says.
One key to being able to do this is having row clutches on your planter so that variable-rate seeding is feasible. If you don't have it, it may not pay to invest in it just for this reason, unless you have big stretches of lighter or sandy soils in fields with other, more productive soils where you will need a good seeding rate. You'll have to run the numbers on investing in this technology and make your own decisions, Nanda concludes.