Farm Progress

There is more to raising non-GMO corn than just planting non-GMO hybrids.

Tom J Bechman 1, Editor, Indiana Prairie Farmer

January 17, 2018

3 Min Read
EMBRACE NON-GMO: Josh Richey heads up Spectrum Premium Non-GMO Seed Corn in addition to farming. He uses IPM practices to monitor insects and encourages others to do it, too.

Josh Richey wants more than traditional options and just selling conventional No. 2 yellow corn. It’s one reason why he became involved with a seed company that specializes in selling non-GMO corn.

Richey, Lafayette, Ind., farms but is also president of Spectrum Premium Non-GMO Seed Corn. Bill Gass, the company’s director of business development, notes the company is less than 10 years old. It was started by farmers frustrated with traditional market choices, Gass says.

Market angle
“Our success so far has been primarily based on offering quality non-GMO hybrids,” Richey says. “From the start, the goal was to develop novel germplasm so that we could grow and sell hybrids that produce as well as traited hybrids.”

Non-GMO corn is all Spectrum does, Richey says. The company has multiple sources of non-GMO genetics. Each year, somewhere between 1,000 and 1,500 products are tested, and typically two or three new non-GMO hybrids are released.

While Spectrum started in west-central Indiana, the company markets in several Corn Belt states, including Illinois, Ohio, Kentucky, Michigan, Iowa, Minnesota and the Dakotas. Currently, it’s expanding into New York and the Delmarva area of the Northeast.

The original goal behind forming the company was producing seed that could fetch a premium in the market as non-GMO corn, Gass says. Part of the demand comes from export markets, but it also comes from grain buyers for large grain companies. Word is that Cargill is actively seeking growers for non-GMO markets this winter, especially in Indiana and the eastern Corn Belt.

The demand for non-GMO corn is strong enough that some buyers are offering hefty premiums. That’s the kind of market their customers can serve, Gass says.

More than seed
If you’re going to grow non-GMO corn, you must be committed to making it work, Richey says. One primary management change involves scouting and being ready to handle insects, he says.

“You need to detect possible insect and disease problems early and be ready to take action if necessary with non-GMO corn,” Richey says. “For example, you can treat pests like European corn borer if you find the problem early and assess the need to spray.”

To help non-GMO farmers monitor pests, Spectrum has partnered with Spensa Technologies, makers of Z-Trap 1, to put out a network of traps across several states in 2017. The traps capture moths of target insects, and automatically relay information via the internet so anyone monitoring the reports knows what to look for and when.

It’s integrated pest management in action, Richey says.

“Our goal was 400 traps last year,” Gass adds. “Target insects included corn borer, western bean cutworm and corn earworm, depending upon where farmers were located.”

“We concentrated on European corn borer in my area,” Richey says. “The idea is to go out and scout if moth counts indicate insect adults are in your area. I had very little corn borer activity in 2017. It definitely didn’t warrant spraying. But the whole point is that I was watching and ready to take action if I needed to do so.”

Spectrum will continue the trap network in 2018. For information about insect monitoring, visit spectrumseed.com.

About the Author(s)

Tom J Bechman 1

Editor, Indiana Prairie Farmer

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