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Serving: IL
Stephanie Smith, a Golden Harvest agronomist, holds a soybean plant upside down to count the pods at a field day.
POD COUNTING: Stephanie Smith, a Golden Harvest agronomist, holds a soybean plant upside down to count the pods. She says varying variety choices by soil type and other factors leads to better yields.

Drawing up a 2020 game plan

Golden Harvest agronomists and seed advisers are fielding data for a free interface to help farmers plan for the growing season.

In the fallout of a challenging 2019 growing season, farmers are looking to digital tools like Golden Harvest’s E-Luminate to help plan ahead and coordinate with seed advisers in season.

Seed adviser Cory Farmer of Lincoln, Ill., says he’s seeing more customers buy a higher percentage of early-maturing corn hybrids in the mix of three to five that they typically grow each year. With the web browser-based seed selector in the E-Luminate “toolbox,” he started sitting down with growers at the end of last year to narrow down their best options.

“If you want 109-to-111-day hybrids, it’ll kick out the top ones for that maturity range,” Farmer says, noting there are several other ways to narrow down selection on a field-by-field basis. For example, if one field is low-lying and often waterlogged while another field is drought-sensitive, the field maps imported into the program will help it list the top yielders for each circumstance.

Giving E-Luminate access to John Deere Operations Center data also helps farmers make a more informed decision.

“The more information you give the program, the better,” Farmer says. “You can give it previous crop history, water capacity, that type of stuff. And from there, it’ll be a much better recommendation.”

Bob Lawless, Golden Harvest agronomist, has used E-Luminate since it was in beta mode — helping to improve it before the company started training its network of seed advisers on how to use the tool over a year ago. The program has improved continually, with a recent addition of an interactive map for farmers to formulate and adjust their custom game plan for each field.

“You can add a lot of bushels to a guy’s operation by just putting the right hybrid or variety on the right field,” Lawless says. “For example, if it’s a hybrid that doesn’t handle wet feet well — if it gets crown rot or loses nitrogen in those wet fields — that’s probably not the hybrid you want to put out there. But if you’re placing the hybrid on a well-drained soil and you’re sidedressing your fertilizer, it can really crank yield.”

Narrowing down seed selection

Seed advisers can input management techniques such as no-till and sidedressing into E-Luminate, too. Lawless says they have the option to run different filters so the most important factors to the grower based on his or her own experience can be prioritized. This includes planting rates.

“With the yield data provided, you can look at different hybrids by planting rates. And that’s useful,” Lawless says. “Of course, it varies by the year. In a drought year, you probably don’t need as high a population because you’ll tip back some.” He adds that Golden Harvest has hybrids that don’t tip back much on grain fill when planted at a high population. Others do. “It just depends on the genetics. But we have the data to help the farmer decide.”

Lawless says each grower has his or her own level of optimism for the next growing season, likening making decisions based on weather to looking into a crystal ball. But each field has a climate history within E-Luminate, showing the likelihood of different weather scenarios and the best varieties for each.

“You wouldn’t want to plant the top hybrid for an event that happens 5% of the time,” says Grant Merron, Golden Harvest digital enablement lead, referring to the wettest years Illinois has experienced.

Farmer app

In season, farmers can use the E-Luminate app to track their seed advisers who are checking conditions in their fields. Growers and seed advisers also receive Normalized Difference Vegetation Index imagery from FarmShots about every three days through E-Luminate.

The program’s product analyzer tool pulls from relevant third-party trials, too. For example, if a grower wants to use an Agrisure Duracade-traited hybrid to deal with corn earworm, seed advisers can pull up a ranked list of all the options companies have put up for trial.

“It’s been kind of handy on some guys who are planting another company’s corn,” Farmer says, adding if they give him a competitor’s number, “I can take that and say, ‘Look, this Golden Harvest number was on 50 different plots and averaged a bushel better than that.’”

One of the most common corn fungal diseases, gray leaf spot, has susceptibility monitored in trials where the disease has shown up.

“We know susceptibility, and even beyond that, we have data on some hybrids that will yield through it. Then there are other hybrids that really need to be sprayed. There are differences there that we know as advisers and agronomists that we can help you with,” Lawless says, concluding that E-Luminate is “another tool in a growing toolbox.”

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