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Dry soil tilts seed choice toward fuller season corn

In spite of the driest soil profile in years, farmers are optimistic there will be enough moisture to get the spring crop up and growing

January 19, 2012
By Steve Browne , Marshall Independent

MARSHALL - In spite of drought conditions, farmers remain optimistic about getting enough water in the ground in time for spring planting, according to area seed dealers.

"We're in drought conditions, but the thing about drought is that it takes a long time to make a drought, but you can have a flood overnight," said Brian Meier, sales manager for CHS agricultural service company. "Our topsoil will hold about eight to 12 inches of water, but right now it's pretty much empty."

Meier said one effect of drought conditions on the market is that farmers are leaning more toward corn than soybeans. Because of the greater productivity of corn under dry conditions, farmers are able to get more crop insurance protection for corn.

Dave Timmerman, an agronomist with the Marshall office of Hefty Seed, said Hefty has sold about 90 percent of its seed on hand so far, and customers seem to be buying with insect protection in mind.

"Drought tolerance is based on hybrid selections," Timmerman said. "We don't really have a hybrid bred specifically for drought tolerance, though Monsanto is looking to develop them for the future. We'll probably have them for sale in two to three years."

Dry soil conditions affect the life cycle of crop- predating insects such as the corn borer and root worms, according to Timmerman.

"Certain insects, mainly root worms, will go deeper into the ground, based on soil moisture and appear later in the season because the deeper earth will warm later," Timmerman said.

Jerry Teigland, manager of Pioneer Seed in Minneota, said because of discounts all seed companies offer for early sale, 95 percent of his seed is sold for this season.

"There are lots of new hybrids and soy bean varieties," Teigland said. "In general farmers are quick adapters. They look at yield and defensive characteristics, and this year they're looking at dry soil and no surplus moisture in the ground."

But, Teigland said, because of the dry soil farmers have been buying longer-maturing varieties of corn in anticipation of an early planting.

"It's not like last year when it was too wet to plant," Teigland said.

So farmers must assume that the soil will be dry enough in the spring to allow early planting, but receive enough moisture for seed to germinate in the ground.

Meier is optimistic.

"I think we'll have enough moisture to get the corn up and growing," Meier said. "I always tell producers, if you plant for a disaster, you'll have one."



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