Monday, February 8, 2010

which corn to plant

As time goes on different opportunities become available for farmers to take advantages of different markets. One that is becoming more attractive to many farmers is conventional corn. During a conversation with a seed salesman last week the subject came up and he mentioned that in north east Kansas conventional, non GMO, corn had quite a bit of interest and that his seed supplies were becoming tight. He showed me variety tests and pointed out a conventional variety that had performed well in the tests.

When considering going to a specialty crop such as this, several things have to be taken into consideration. Am I going to have to add different equipment to seed or harvest? What am I going to do with it after I harvest it, store it on the farm? How far will I have to ship it to get a premium? I will no longer have insect resistance in my plant so I might have to add insecticide at planting time for root worms, and then I might have to apply insecticides again for insects when the corn is bigger. How close can I plant to GMO corn?

The equipment is the same for planting. A detailed cleaning is required to ensure seeds don't find their way into the field since this is is a field size trial. Planters are easy to clean out, a few minutes a row and that is accomplished. The combine on the other hand, can be more time consuming to clean. If I plan to have that field ready for harvest first then I can ensure the combine being free of GMO seeds because of wheat harvest.

Being a specialty crop I won't be able to market it for a premium locally, particularly in my low corn production area. I will have to store it on the farm and ship it at a later date. The good thing is we have more than adequate storage space and equipment to handle it and keep it in condition.

It will most likely have to be shipped to Kansas City or farther, so the premium has to be enough to make it worthwhile. My local corn price is strong and the trucking can eat up much of the premium. I can still sell the corn locally to the feedlot, it's still yellow corn except it doesn't contain genes that protect it from herbicides or insects, without a premium.

Plant protection is the next challenge since the plant is no longer herbicide tolerant and insect resistant. We haven't been using Round Up in our corn, even though it is tolerant of it, because we wanted to reduce our chances of resistant weeds. Our normal weed control protocol shouldn't be a problem. Insect control could be a problem, working with a Certified Crop Adviser is a benefit in this area. He will help scout fields for troubling insects and recommend the best product to use.

Non GMO corn will need a buffer from GMO corn. I know that corn pollen from yellow corn can blow across a road and contaminate white corn. In the article Banking on non-biotech "You need to grow non-GM corn at least 660 ft. from a GM variety, said G.W. Dimmett Premium Ag Products general manager." I can easily accomplish this from the lack of corn production in my area and fields that are isolated.

I think it is possible to raise conventional corn, especially with supplemental irrigation. I want to see varieties in some more yield tests and how the heat stress from a normal year effects them.

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