As farmers across Iowa wrap up this year’s harvests and as the year ends, thoughts turn toward next season, and what type of corn and soybean hybrids and varieties might be best in 2021.
This year saw a lot of variable weather events and patterns that occurred across the state. Between the severe drought conditions in the western half of the state and the derecho that tore through the center in August, fields have been hit with a lot of obstacles in 2020. These obstacles will play a part in the decision-making process of hybrid and variety selection for planting in 2021.
Iowa State University Extension field agronomist Mike Witt offers the following recommendations. ISU Extension specialist Zach Clemmons also contributed to this article.
Downed corn across Iowa is a prevalent situation with many fields being deemed unharvestable by crop insurance adjusters or requiring extra resources to harvest them this fall. These fields have left a much higher volume of harvest loss corn on the ground than in previous years. Selecting a soybean variety that fits your volunteer corn control program is important for 2021 to combat this problem.
Dealing with downed corn
A timely article by ISU agronomists along with a video show some examples and ideas for dealing with downed corn and volunteer corn management for 2021. You can read the article and watch the video by clicking on these these two links:
Variable environmental conditions and increased downed corn are not the only factors to consider when making your decisions on which corn hybrids and soybean varieties to plant in 2021. The two articles listed below go into detail on aspects of corn hybrid and soybean variety selection that are critical regardless of the previous cropping year. ISU Extension agronomist Mark Licht wrote these two articles:
Soil still dry
For 2021, however, there are a few things to highlight that may help with your decisions. The first would be understanding where you stand in relation to soil moisture in your fields. Current fall soil moisture levels are variable across the state. Parts of northwest Iowa are more than 60% short or are very short in topsoil moisture and subsoil moisture, while northeast Iowa is over 80% adequate to surplus. That’s according to USDA’s Iowa Crop Progress and condition report as of Nov. 8.
West-central Iowa experienced a prolonged severe D3 drought event in the summer of 2020 with the effects lingering into the fall. These soil moisture swings may make a farmer decided to plant a corn hybrid or soybean variety that has more potential for drought tolerance. Soil moisture can change, and no one can predict the winter snowpack, but understanding that 2021 is starting at a deficit or a surplus helps in decisions. Drought tolerance might be more important in 2021 than previous years.
Herbicide choice key
Another important factor to consider is herbicide trait packages for 2021, especially in soybeans. There could be an increase in the amount of volunteer corn in fields that could alter plans for weed control. Also, recent court cases involving dicamba and other labeled products make it imperative you choose the correct traits for your fields.
Rotating herbicides according to site and modes of action can be better managed in 2021 with more options available. However, these options can carry risks for environmental contamination if not placed properly. Traits and technology can help farmers be more efficient, but they can also be harmful and more costly if used incorrectly.
Corn rootworm resistance
A third issue that has been creeping up on certain Iowa farmers is the increase in resistance to corn rootworm traits that are offered in specific corn hybrids. These traits and proteins will eventually develop resistances and are not “bullet proof” methods of control of rootworm that some people would like to believe.
A proper integrated crop management system of crop and trait rotations is appropriate if you are seeing resistance issues in your fields. Corn-on-corn fields with multiple years of the same trait packages being used in high CRW pressure areas are particularly prone to failures. Thus, 2021 is a good year to get in front of these insect issues by rotating crops, switching traits or adding different insecticides to your mix. A little bit of management goes a long way in preventing resistance.
Most farmers are ready to put 2020 in the rearview mirror and move on to next season. Fields are being harvested at an increased rate this fall compared to last year. Iowa farmers are soon going to be getting ready for winter and next year’s decisions.
“Understanding where your fields stand after 2020 and making a few small changes in management or hybrid-variety selections will help reduce the yield-robbing potential this year gave us,” Witt says. “If 2020 taught farmers anything, it is to expect the unexpected in 2021 and prepare accordingly.”