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Agribusiness: Genetics, prices, may make fall corn a good option in Rio Grande Valley

The options for fall-planted crops are many in the Rio Grande Valley — from broccoli, carrots and cucumbers to squash, tomatoes and corn.

This year, however, fall-planted corn may be a better option than usual thanks to higher corn prices and a new technology that combats fall armyworm pressure.

“Fall corn is typically planted in early August, four to six weeks after we harvest the spring corn and vegetables. It’s harvested around Christmas or the first of the year,” said Chuck McCutchen, a farmer from Mercedes. “With higher corn prices and hybrids that increase yields and eliminate expensive chemicals used to control armyworms, I’m anticipating more fall corn this year.”

Chris Cernosek, an independent representative for Golden Acres Genetics, said more farmers in the Valley have been planting fall corn the past couple of years following the introduction of corn hybrids containing the Herculex trait. Herculex provides in-plant protection against fall armyworm, as well as first- and second-generation European corn borer and all generations of Southwestern corn borer.

“The Herculex trait does a great job of controlling the fall armyworm, which has always been an expensive obstacle in the Rio Grande Valley,” Cernosek said. “Add in corn borer protection and a superior genetics base and it is easy to see why an early maturing hybrid like Golden Acres 2821RLH can really increase yields for farmers in the Valley.”

McCutchen said he has used hybrids from different companies over the years, but appreciates the better corn genetics available now.

“The Bt hybrids available in the past helped some, but turning a profit was tough in years with high fall armyworm pressure,” he said. “Last year I found that 2821RLH from Golden Acres was the right package. It had the best yield by far on my plot. In fact, I’ve already ordered it for this fall.”

Cernosek, based in Kingsville, Texas, said growers like McCutchen can take advantage of higher corn prices thanks to improved genetics and technology available today. “Farmers can get better yields and lower their production costs,” he said, “which increases the opportunity to turn a good profit.”

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