Every spring, Syngenta plants several Grow More Experience sites across the Midwest. Each site fills a different niche and helps the company gain experience about the unique growing conditions of the region.
The information gleaned is used to tailor products to growers and to make better recommendations to producers so they can grow better crops, says Tim Dahl, a Syngenta agronomic service representative whose territory is southern Minnesota.
In 2020, there were four Grow More Experience sites in Minnesota:
1. Glyndon. Soybeans, chickpeas and wheat were planted.
2. Stanton. This site is located near the company’s research site. Corn and soybeans were planted, and there were trials on seed treatments, soybean varieties, corn hybrids and fungicide applications.
3. Janesville. Corn and soybeans were planted. There were seed treatment trials and studies on corn rootworm, fungicides and planting population. Planting populations of 30,000; 36,000 and 42,000 were examined. A soybean variety showcase highlighted treatment platforms, including Roundup, Enlist and Extend.
4. Morgan. Corn and soybeans were planted. More than 100 different herbicide trials were conducted at the site, in addition to 10 return-on-investment trials, 52 different soybean treatments and 31 mode-of-action treatments. There were 199 different four-row herbicide plots.
Getting the word out
Sharing the information with growers in 2020 was challenging because of the COVID-19 pandemic, Dahl says. Instead of field days and plot tours, sites were signed throughout the growing season, and growers were encouraged to visit on their own. Growers, retailers, crop consultants and Syngenta employees visited the sites throughout the season, he says.
Like other segments of society, Syngenta turned to technology to share information, with videos taken of most treatments and photographs captured every two weeks throughout the growing season. It’s a virtual walk-through, Dahl says.
The goal is to help producers keep up with the changes coming every year to crops and crop protection products. He remembers when farmers would talk about a good hybrid for several years. Today’s growers don’t have that luxury, as hybrids and varieties often change yearly.
“Grow More Experience sites arm them to make their best decisions,” Dahl says.
Part of the information sharing is encouraging producers to look at costs and profits from several angles.
Growers are used to talking bushels per acre and dollars per acre, but Dahl says he prefers to talk dollars spent per bushel. Crop protection products may be 5% to 10% of the total spent per acre, he says, but they could dramatically change yield outcome. Other costs — including seed, fertilizer, land, machinery, insurance and labor — are the majority of dollars spent per bushel, and many are fixed costs.
“It’s challenging to have black ink without yields,” Dahl says.
Impacts in 2020
Now that 2020 crops are stored or sold and farmers are planning for 2021, what challenges did Dahl see in fields across southern Minnesota in 2020?
Corn rootworm was the greatest challenge in corn, followed by tar spot and northern corn leaf blight.
Volunteer corn is a great host for corn rootworm, Dahl says, which is one reason volunteer corn was targeted in trials at the Morgan site.
Tar spot originated in Mexico and South America and showed up in southeastern Minnesota in 2019. It has extended its range across the southern part of the state, Dahl says.
“In my opinion, the severity has increased as well,” he adds.
For northern corn leaf blight control, growers may select one of the many hybrids that have resistance.
For soybeans, sudden death syndrome and waterhemp were the top challenges.
SDS is more recognized, Dahl says, and has become one of the leading yield-robbing diseases in the U.S. SDS is caused by the soilborne fungus Fusarium virguliforme, according to the Soybean Research and Information Network. Variety selection is the No. 1 management tool for the disease.
Waterhemp is one of the amaranth species that are difficult to control, as weeds emerge throughout the season and can have 500,000 seeds per plant. Plants that are only a few inches tall have seed heads, and even if only a few sneak through a herbicide application, a grower can have problems.
“We have populations of waterhemp that are resistant to several modes of action,” Dahl says. He recommends Prefix for waterhemp control, which contains the active ingredient fomesafen. It has very good residual control of waterhemp and giant ragweed.
View a video of Syngenta’s Morgan plot and soybean herbicide trial here. To see photos from the Grow More Experience sites, click through the slideshow.
Kubat Willette is a Farm Progress digital content creator.