Farmers make preparations for the planting season
By CARLETA WEYRICH
The race is on to get the new U.S. crop in the ground. Seed companies are geared up to serve farmers in Southwestern Ohio with the latest in seed varieties and technologies.
Roger Rhonemus has his inputs ready and is poised to start planting come April 1. Rhonemus and his sons, Luke and Jacob, plant 1,500 acres of grain and harvest 400 to 500 acres of hay, primarily on Adams County farmland.
Rhonemus had bought 90 percent of his fertilizer by the end of January, and most of his chemicals were purchased in December.
“That was a savings — the cost of glyphosate (a herbicide) went up 30 percent since then,” Rhonemus said. “The price of fertilizer went up, too.”
In mid-February, Rhonemus was fine-tuning his 2013 seed order with Client Success Partner Jerrode Jones with Bio Gene Seeds. Rhonemus has used Bio Gene’s seed for 15 years and has been a loyal customer for the past dozen years. He has been a client of Jones for six years.
“Their seed has done well here,” said Rhonemus. “We have a different type of soil — it’s a shallow soil. Typically our corn yields about 150 bushels per acre. With the drought and high temperatures, we had 55 to 200 bushels an acre in various fields last year. Including double cropped, the beans ranged from the low 20s to 60 bushels an acre, depending on when it was planted. We usually average 50.”
Some characteristics Rhonemus looks for in seed are rate of maturity, disease resistance, herbicide tolerance, insect resistance, and he plants GMO (genetically modified) seed. He plants mostly full season corn and beans as long as there is moisture in the soil, but about 20 percent of his beans are mid-season so the wheat can go in early.
Rhonemus likes to rotate his crops and will generally plant 50–50 soybeans and corn. What crop goes into each field depends on the rotation.
“Definitely no beans after beans to prevent washes,” he said. “Corn after corn is o.k., but it can lead to disease problems.”
This year he will be adding to his crop ground a farm that has been down in grass for 40 years. He plans to no-till plant.
“I don’t like to use diesel fuel any more than I have to with the price over $4 a gallon,” Rhonemus said.
He also has the practice of putting other ground down in hay when fields come out of grass and are cropped.
“One thing I’ve learned is don’t do what everybody else does. I do what works for me.”
Hay is a favorite crop for Rhonemus. He likes to make square bales, although sometimes round bales are better when he needs to get in and get out of the field more quickly. About 40 percent of his hay is timothy-clover, 40 percent an alfalfa mix, and the rest mixed grass. He doesn’t like straight alfalfa because the leaves so easily drop off. To make a nice, softer hay, he mixes the alfalfa with orchard grass. He also custom bales at neighboring farms.
“If my barn is full of hay in the fall, I know I will have enough money to get through the winter,” he said.
Overall Rhonemus was looking at seed varieties that are tolerant to drought and high temperatures. In the 2012 growing season, he and Jones agreed that the high temperatures were more destructive to the growing crop than the drought. The temperatures soared when many plants were pollinating and developing their “fruit,” which died in the heat.
“I had one field of corn, the foliage looked great, but there was nothing there,” said Rhonemus.
The 2010 growing season was a wet year, but the shortage of rainfall in the area has been an issue for two years, according to Jones, so seed buyers have steered toward the drought tolerant varieties.
“Some of the current hot hybrids for 2013 are BG 850V3 RIB, BG 831V2 RIB, BG 80W10 RIB, and BG 79W10 RIB,” Jones said. “Hot soybean varieties are BG 7384, BG 7421, and BG 7441. They are just some of the top performing varieties from the new class of Genuity Roundup Ready 2 Yield soybeans.”
Bio Gene Seeds is a family owned business based out of Sardinia in Brown County, Ohio. BioGene currently sells seed in 18 states; with a large focus on Southwest and South Central Ohio. Bio Gene’s main goal is to partner with their customers in order to yield for their customers the highest net profit possible. Another goal is to place the best performing product for each specific field for all of their customers.
Other seed companies are also geared up for 2013 with the dry conditions of the past two years weighing heavily on their minds.
Matt Cosler works for Master Feed Mill in Wilmington, Ohio, which is an independent sales representative for DuPont Pioneer. They also sell chemicals, fertilizer and agricultural services, making them a full service agricultural inputs supplier. Master Feed Mill, based in Wilmington, services Clinton, Warren, Greene, Fayette and Highland counties in southwest Ohio.
“Recently, DuPont Pioneer has brought Optimum AQUAmax products to market,” Cosler said. “These corn hybrids are drought tolerant — and considering the growing conditions we faced last year, drought tolerance is on everyone’s mind. Also new insect and herbicide traits, as well as refuge management tools, are changing the way growers make seed purchasing decisions. DuPont Pioneer’s Optimum AcreMax integrated refuge allows growers to plant traited corn and protect against insect pressure without the worry and added management of planting separate refuge.”
According to Ric Bessin, Extension Entomologist, University of Kentucky College of Agriculture, the EPA regulates resistance management policies to be used by commercial corn producers when using Bt (Bio-tech) corn seed. Initially, Bt-corn technologies required the use of a structured refuge (planted in non-Bt corn) to delay the development of pest resistance to the Bt toxins. However, some newly approved Bt-corn technologies offer other resistance management strategies. These include the standard 20 percent structured refuge, a reduced five percent structured refuge, and refuge in the bag (a blend of Bt and non-Bt corn).
“Popular soybean varieties will continue to be those that consistently yield well without sacrificing agronomic traits such as disease and other stress resistance,” Cosler added. “New management tactics, such as applying seed treatment where it was previously thought to be unnecessary has allowed growers to push soybeans to the next level. Again, drought tolerance and moisture management will be popular with growers in 2013.
“Volatile markets will weigh heavily on the minds of growers in 2013,” said Cosler. “Everyone seems to be hanging in limbo about the direction of commodity markets today, and the weather will be a major player in what happens. If the United States plants a large corn crop and has a great production year, markets seem to be likely to fall. But, if weather causes planting delays, and if the drought from 2012 continues into 2013, growers may see the highest markets in history.”
Jay Harmount represents Brodbeck Seeds, headquartered in Wabash, Ind. The company’s sales area is focused on Ohio, Indiana and Michigan. They are a seed affiliate of Dow AgroSciences. Harmount has customers all over Ohio, but his primary focus is southern Ohio.
“In corn, I have 2 varieties that are extremely popular,” he said. “Both are Refuge Advanced, powered by SmartStax. The varieties 53RA09 and 52RA11 have proven themselves the past couple of years. Their performance has been very good, with both finishing well above average this past year in the Southwest Ohio Corn Growers Trials. 52RA11 has a two-year average of 105 percent above the trial average.
“I find the Refuge In A Bag varieties (Refuge Advanced, Powered by SmartStax in our product lineup) being very popular,” said Harmount. “Since they contain the required refuge, they are easy to use, and the grower is in compliance with Refuge requirements. In Soybeans we have seen the Roundup Ready 2 varieties becoming popular as they have out preformed the Roundup Ready 1 varieties by about 3.5 bu/ac in our testing.”
Beyond the spring planting season, some farmers already are planning ahead to this fall. Rhonemus is looking forward to trying out a cover crop for over the winter. It will really aid in conserving soil moisture in his fields for the following year, he said. As part of his marketing strategy, he has forward contracted some beans. After he did, the fall price dropped 45 cents because the crop in Brazil looks good. He plans to sell his crops locally at Winchester Ag Service and Trupointe in Georgetown.
(Carleta Weyrich is a staff writer for The People’s Defender in West Union.)