Hybrid Selection & Variable Rate Planting

Jan 09, 2019

Hybrid Selection & Variable Rate Planting

Stefanie W:  Welcome to another episode of planting profits with Jesse Wiant and today we have Brett Amberg here with us.

Jesse Wiant: Thanks Stef! As she alluded to here. We got Brett Amberg with us today. Today we're just going to cover two main topics relating to seed; hybrid or variety selection and what Brett looks at when we go to make a variable rate seeding map. So, Brett, let's start today with the hybrid or variety selection. A lot of times we tend to focus on corn, you know, corn has always been king, it seems like more focuses on that, whether it's from a placement standpoint, management standpoint in general. So I think that's a good place to start today. Let's talk about why is it one of the most important things that grower can do on a field by field basis?

Brett Amberg: So to me, looking at hybrid selection, the first thing I look at would be yield potential on that field. What's a past production is at a high yielding field, is a low yielding field. Then I go on to some of the elite hybrids for the good yielding fields and try to really push that yield up and then on your lower yield potential fields maybe plant something more defensive, something that there's not a lot of management required just because we know the bushels aren't going to be there to, to pay you back. Rotation is a big one. Especially talking about traits. Um, and even some smart stacks and stuff. You want to make sure to keep on rotated verse. I'm corn on corn even though they are smart stacks. Geographically located; Is it close to the home farm? Is that a farm you're going to be looking at a lot. If it's something that's 20 miles away from where you're based out of, it might be something to think about a low management hybrid just because you don't see it everyday. You don't know what it looks like. Also drainage would be the other thing there that can have a huge effect too.

Jesse Wiant:  I think you bring up a great point with the yield potential, as an agronomist I'd like to think that any field would have an equal yield potential. But there's cases where obviously that's not going to be true whether it's due to soil type, a natural drainage, or naturally lacking drainage, I guess you could say too. I think that's something that we really have to take into consideration as well, especially with corn. I think soybeans, we're not quite to the point where we can manage differently by a yield potential per se, as much as what are the biggest variables are, and beans like IDC, soybean white mold, um, something like that. But with corn you look at fields where, um, you know, the past couple of years we've had pretty decent years. 2018, is maybe a little bit of a downfall but over the past few years, but we've been able to raise a lot of fields to 20 plus, but there's always that one field that's maybe struggling to break 200 and maybe on a year like this year it's struggled to break 170. Those are the fields. I think we've got to segment and by segmenting those fields versus our are good fields you can start managing those differently. You like to talk about the A, B, and C zones, right? Within a field. I think you can do that at a field level basis as well, where you have your A fields, those are your really good fields; your high fertility, great drainage. Maybe you know, for an example, the home. You got your B fields that are maybe okay, drainage, fertility is pretty good, but it's not going to be your top yielding in field. And then you get your C fields where maybe it's a new farm that you just rented. You don't know a lot of the history on that field. What are some of the ways that you can mitigate risks there? I think one is just your variety or hybrid selection on that piece, you know, if it's something where you don't know a lot of history, maybe you want to play it a little safe and not throw that race horse type hybrid on that field, maybe that's where you can put something a little more defensive, something that's going be a consistent across the field but maybe not be your top yielding field.

Brett Amberg: So I like your point there. You know, usually when you're looking at a variable rate seeding prescription, you're talking to ABC zones and that definitely applies to your fields in general. You made the comment, you've got fields that go 250 and you've got fields that go 180 or 170 or maybe they don't even go that good. So it's all about figuring out how can we manage them better. We might not get the yield up to where the rest of the fields are, but we can manage it better and try to impact that bottom line and have a look a little bit better.

Jesse Wiant: Right, that's what I was getting at as well, as an agronomist, I'd like to say, "Yeah Brett, you bring me this field and I can have it perform as good as your best fields." But there's just certain cases that that's not physically possible without spending a lot of coin.

Brett Amberg: In some cases you might never be able to just because of your soil type and soil structure.

Jesse Wiant: I think one thing too that we didn't necessarily hit on is just maturity in general. Right? So, I mean, more specifically, I would say in corn, but I suppose it could be applied to the beans as well, you know, if, if you've got fields that are located maybe 15 miles or more from your home farm, you're probably going to rethink your maturities a little bit that way you can get started combining sooner maybe farther away from home that way you can finish out at home. So I think that obviously has to be part of the planning process as well for your selection standpoint. Then one thing we, we hit on was the response to(RT) scores, right? Response to fungicide, response to nitrogen, response to population. What about continuous corn? I think those are something that we can use in today's market to help mitigate risk as well. If we've got a field that's corn on corn and struggles to produce that 220 plus, maybe that's where we can use the RT scores and find a hybrid that's gonna work really well in that situation, or vice versa. So if we've got a really good farm, maybe it's the home farm, something high fertility, maybe that's where we take that a high RTN, RTF hybrid and really push our yields there.

Brett Amberg: So I'm going to kinda break off in a little bit different way, but a lot of guys like looking at plot data, right? What was the best number in your plot this year? They want to go all in on it. Well, no, that's not always the case. That hybrid might have been the best on that farm. But again, talking about our ABC fields, that might be the worst one on your farm just because of the characteristics there. Kind of talking about plot data a little bit, it's important; It's great to look at or to use to let you get into an idea of how a hybrid performs, but it's not always the case to look at a plot to just go with the best one all the time. Usually there's a reason why that hybrid did the best there. And, you know, on the contrary, why one might've done the worst.

Jesse Wiant: That's a really good point about the plot data, Brett. Although when we look at different hybrids, we do look at local data, but a lot of times that local data can be skewed just from the standpoint that it's not replicated data. When you look at the LSD number down at the bottom of the plot, if they publish that number, it's typically somewhere between 10 to 15 bushels, which basically means if the top variety did, let's just put a number on it at 220 in the bottom number did 210. That means statistically speaking, they're the same. There's not a difference. A lot of times I like to look a little bit harder at the answer plot data just because of the replication. When we look at RT scores specifically, the more times that hybrid is planted in a plot, replicated throughout, your LSD numbers are going to be lower, which means that you're going to be able to fine tune how to manage that hybrid a little different. The other downside of local plot data is you don't know that growers management practices. He could have different tillage style, depending on when he combined it the previous fall, there could be more compaction, there could be less compaction. There's so many different variables that play into that when you're not replicating that data, where answer plot data really takes the noise out of all the data.

Brett Amberg: Yeah, I guess that was my point there. The plot data is nice to look at, but it doesn't always relate back to what's going to be best for you and don't always just go look at the plot, pick the best number, the one that had the most and plant your whole farm to it. There are more management choices that need to go into that decision.

Jesse Wiant: So we hit on RT scores and how they can help mitigate risk, but also help us place hybrids, corn specifically. How about satellite imagery? Is there anything we can draw from in season imagery from a climate or maybe it's some of the soil variability maps from R7 tool? Can we use those at all to help manage or place different hybrids.

Brett Amberg: So for satellite imagery on corn we don't really use that much for placement per se, but when it comes to making a variable rate prescription map, that would be the time to start maybe using some of those maps from the last year it was that crop type. Usually then you can kind of get a good idea from the end DVI image measuring crop biomass or that field was the healthiest that year and typically year to year those maps stay very similar unless there was a major change or something happened in that field to make that unusable. From a hybrid selection map, there's really not a lot from satellite imagery that will take and use for that. One last thing here with corn, Jesse, seems like there's a lot less and less of a smart stacks going out and now it's a lot more of double pro or conventional. What are some tips or words of advice you have for guys running that way. Is there anything to watch out for or placement things you'd recommend?

Jesse Wiant: Yeah, so I think there's always going to be watchouts. When we look at conventional versus double pro versus even a few triple pros out there versus a SmartStack. I think the key things to keep in mind is rotation and past history. For the most part when we've put sticky traps out the last couple of years, we've gotten a few corn root worms, but it has n't been like what we would expect or what we've seen in the past. The things to keep in mind, I believe it' was northwest Iowa this last summer, so summer of 2018, there was confirmed resistance to the SmartStack traits. So that would be the Herculex trait, was confirmed resistant for, I believe it was northern root worms. We've got to keep that in mind, right? But like I say, rotation wise, a lot of times we get pretty decent winters, which can help with the freeze-thaw cycle, that kind of thing. But when we talk extended diapods, there's so many different things that can cause more issues, but, the one thing to realize if you plant, say a double pro, the whole field and you have some root worm feeding on the roots, but you never go and check, you'll never know, or potentially you'll never know. Unless it gets really bad. That's when, you know. Jon Zuk this summer did a study at the Le Sueur answer plot where they took a shovel and pruned the roots, I believe they went six inches out from either side of the row and just took a shovel and just basically pushed the shovel in the ground. The whole length of the plot. What they found at V5 was what we would expect. The plants were behind, but the ears weren't terrible. So when we look at those ears versus at V9 when they did it, the ears at V5 were really not any worse than they were at V9. So if we think about at V5 we've got maybe a 12 inch tall plant, we don't really have a big root system underneath that. At V9 we had a much greater root system which takes more energy to regrow that root system because of the size. Jon also did it at V5 and V9 and those were by far the worst ears, which would make sense. I mean, that's what we would expect. However, when you took a picture of the four rows all next to each other, The V5 pruning and the V9 pruning alone, there wasn't a tremendous difference with no pruning whatsoever from just visually above the ground. But as soon as you had the V5 and the V9 pruning, that's when we really could see visual differences. So again, that's why I pointed out, if you don't actually get out in your fields and dig or do root floats to try to find the root worms, you're probably never going to know if you have an issue, Unless it gets really bad. And that's where you have the goosenecking, that's where your corn starts falling down, that's where you're combining corn one way, getting really mad. Those are the key things to keep in mind is rotation. If it's a corn on corn acre, I would do anything that you can, to make sure you have a fully traited product there. In the past there's been some guys that just with conventional, because they're getting a premium or they'll go corn on corn and use insecticide. The problem with an insecticide is that it's not a season long protection, where a trait is. When you factor out, say if you're going to use a doublepro with an insecticide versus a smartstack, you're better off to just plant the smartstack for another couple bucks an acre and get that season long protection versus just a couple of weeks. Now there's also been a lot of just going to conventionals because of the price of the seed. I understand that with commodities where they're at, times are tight, things are tight, it's hard to make ends meet. But if you're not getting a premium for going conventional I don't know if there's a true benefit to that. Now we've seen in the past where conventionals will out yield a SmartStack or conventionals will out yield the DoublePro which makes a lot of sense, right? So when we think of these traits within these plans they are proteins. To make a protein, we need nitrogen, to make amino acids, to make a protein. If we are experiencing some sort of feeding in the SmartStack hybrid, it's got to take nitrogen to make that protein. So it's going to take a little bit away from what is putting into the ear. If we're planting a conventional number and do not have any root worm feeding, we're probably not going to see a yield drag, it can be really good, because there is no pest. It's no different than chemicals. If the pest isn't there, you don't need to spray. So it's like a trait in the corn. If the pest isn't there, you don't need to make that trait. So those are things to keep in mind.

Brett Amberg: I'll just add one more thing. You said already a couple times, but rotation, know that and then just if you're going to go this way, you're going to have to manage it differently and just be aware of the watch outs and the things that you need to do. Like I said, you could have a field of conventional or a double pro go 200 plus bushels an acre and you're probably not going to think much of it. But was there another 15 or 20 bushels? Did you still lose some? Was there there still more out there to be had but you had the issue? So it's not that you shouldn't plant it, but just know that if you are, there is a different management style or things you need to do to watch out for to make sure that it doesn't fall flat over.

Jesse Wiant: So one more thing. I know you said one more, but I got one more to add on this one. There's always one more. So that last thing, Brett, is the genetics in general, right? So a lot of these conventional hybrids that are available on the market are older genetics. So again, through the answer plot system, what we've been seeing is usually a three to four bushel increase every year for a new class of genetics. So if we're planting hybrids that are maybe four to five to six to eight years old just think of what you're potentially given up there in yield. So that's roughly 20 bushels. I mean 20 bushels versus the price of SmartStacks and you're going to be pretty close on what you're going to be able to pay for a difference there.

Brett Amberg: Let's switch over to soybeans now. We spent a lot of time on corn, although there is a lot more things to talk about. Let's switch to beans here now. So the two main things most growers deal with when looking at soybeans are IDC, iron chlorosis and white mold?

Jesse Wiant:  Well enough said there, Brett. I mean all joking aside, when we look at soybeans, we don't pick soybeans by yield potential. We pick soybeans based on what our biggest issues or question marks are out in that field. Let's face it, Brett, if you know you have high PH IDC potential out in the field, you're probably not going to pick a bean that's really bad on IDC because that's just poor management decision, right? It's pretty simple to pick varieties that are going to work in certain situations, but when we start looking at other things we can do to help mitigate some of the risks, whether it is from IDC or from white mold in particular, what are some of those other things we can do?

Brett Amberg: So the biggest one I can think of is start variable rating those soybeans. When you're picking your variety, you're looking at your IDC scores and your white mold scores. After that, then you might start looking at some data on the yields on those varieties. Instead of picking one that's really lacked in the yield, but it's a good at your defense on your IDC or white mold, depending how big those areas in your field are. Maybe you can pick one that's good on IDC, but you can start to manage with variable rating your soybeans and then in turn your, your IDC spots will push populations and your white mold will drawback. It's always your variety and the scores first on IDC and white mold, but then from there you can go into a variable rate population to try to help that even further.

Jesse Wiant: So you're talking variable rating soybeans?

Brett Amberg: You Bet.

Jesse Wiant: Okay, so in a situation where, let's say we have really bad white mold from 2017. So a lot of those fields are going to be going back to beans here for 2019 and you're talking about variable rating soybean seed. How do you know where to go? Where do you start?

Brett Amberg: So for me, the first thing is to ask the grower did they have white mold? Where was it at, do they remember? And then from there you start looking at yield maps or in season imagery. A lot of that fits perfectly. A lot of the time you can look at that late August to mid August imagery really will show that white mold and then, like you would expect, the yield monitor would show it as well. You can go back and, whether it's yield maps or in season imagery, a lot of times they'll correlate perfectly but, you can use those to make the perfect zone. Then as long as the person farming that field, or is in that field all year long, can validate that that spot did bad because of this disease. Then you know for sure you got it right.

Jesse Wiant: What's your thoughts on growers that maybe don't have the technology to variable rate seed, but yet they know they have a potential for white mold or IDC spots in their fields? Are there ways we can still help them manage without having to have the electric drive so they can variable rate?

Brett Amberg: So even if you don't have the technology on your planner to variable rate beans or corn or whatever, you can still set a static rate on that planter and manage it that way. If you've got a 40 acre field and two thirds of it has got some serious white mold issues, instead of planting that at 150, 100, whatever thousand, whatever your rate is typically, you can drop that off 30, 40, 50,000 plants depending on where you're starting at. But, that's another way we can do it if you don't have the technology.

Jesse Wiant: Brett, let's roll a little bit into our second topic. Even though we've hit on that on the soybean side, just variable rating seed and writing prescriptions for those acres. Let's flip it back to corn. What layers of data do you look at to formulate a prescription for a field? Obviously every field is going to be different, versus the way it's drained and that kind of thing, a hills and valleys and that kind of thing, but what are the layers that you actually are physically looking at when you write a script? Maybe just tell us like, what are you actually doing to create these scripts?

Brett Amberg:  So the main layer I usually look at when, when writing our script for corn, would be past year's yield data, right? It's telling us where exactly in that field the bushels are coming from. Typically you get enough years of yield data for that crop type and you can start to see trends and different zones that are there year after year and start to manage those differently. Another layer would be fertility. What's your P and K levels? Where's your PH? Where's organic matter? Otherwise you can go into elevation, you can go into soil type, you can use google earth, you can look at satellite imagery, bare soil, satellite imagery from years past. Or you can go and look at past years at DVI satellite imagery. I mean, there's a lot of different layers that can go into this thing, but I always start looking at yield data just because that is at the end of the year telling you what came off what part of the field and it's, I don't know, I can't think what's, what's the word I'm looking for here?

Jesse Wiant:  It's your report card

Brett Amberg: It's the validation of what happened out there. That to me, is always the most important. And obviously there's things that can affect that. Whether it was a crappy year and the yield map isn't looking like it should., or maybe there was a hybrid issue, or maybe there was a fertilizer sprayer issue. There's other things that can affect that map, but usually that's the map we like to use and start with at least as long as it makes sense to the grower.

Jesse Wiant: Say you're working with a new field where you know the hybrid. So let's just, let's take 52-84 from Dekalb for example. It's got a really low response to population. If you're working with a new field with a grower, is there a way you can put like a check block or something in different spots to try to validate the rates you're putting in there?

Brett Amberg: Yeah, so that's definitely something I like to do. Looking at each field, each population zone, we like to put check blocks in there and make sure the current population we've got assigned to that zone is correct and we can't be even going up a couple thousand seeds per acre or down. That also factors into the hybrid as well. Like you said, 52-84 has a low response to population, so that field as a whole the populations are going to be down. But yeah, we definitely like to check and make sure the prescription we've got is correct and, going forward to next year, we don't need to change it.

Jesse Wiant:  Well, let's sum this puppy up Brett. (laughter)

Jesse Wiant: It's always Brett!

Stefanie W: Are you crying?

Jesse Wiant: Yes, I am! Let's sum this thing up Brett. Uh, so we started with hybrid selection, mostly talking about how to pick hybrids and varieties whether it's based on yield potential, drainage, rotation, and really segmenting those fields so you've got A field, you've got a B field, and you've got a C field. Really picking hybrids or varieties that are going to work good on each field specifically, not necessarily picking one hybrid for all acres. Really using the RT scores to help drive decisions as well as potential yields. Then we rolled into that variable rate seeding topic, right? That's something where maybe not every grower has the ability to do, but knowing it's out there and kn owing how to utilize that technology on that planter can really help maximize your ROI.

Brett Amberg: So my one key takeaway from this whole thing would be that, out of all your fields, corn and soybeans, there's a lot of variables is out there that affect yield. And we need to manage those limiting factors the best we can. It's not just a one size fits all plan. We really need to make sure we're putting the right hybrid, the right variety, on the right acre to make sure to stack the deck in our favor, to try to get the best outcome we can. I mean, that's to me, the biggest takeaway here.

Stefanie W: Thanks for listening to another episode of Planting Profits! Hopefully you like our new sound quality. We've added a couple new things in addition to the new mics that we added last week. If you'd like, leave a review on the bottom, rate us, tell us what we can do better, ask questions that Jesse can answer on future podcasts. He's given us a thumbs up. So he likes that idea. We will see you next time.

Jesse Wiant: Thank you!

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