As the constant rain soaked eastern Canada in the spring of 2011, Monsanto’s sales, manufacturing and operations teams were scrambling behind the scenes to address an epic redistribution of seeds because of the weather conditions affecting corn farmers. The extreme weather delayed planting and flooded fields already planted. Many seed orders were no longer appropriate given the conditions on the ground and, in many cases, replants were necessary. In some cases, soybeans needed to replace corn.
Three options are available to growers.
To maximize yield, many soybean growers are choosing to protect their investment in soybean seed with seedapplied insecticides and fungicides. Now, they are adding an inoculant, as they see the evidence that it can provide profitable returns. “This year, the yield response from inoculants seems to be similar to other years, maybe even a little more,” says Horst Bohner, provincial soybean specialist with the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs (OMAFRA). That means growers who used an inoculant saw an extra 1.25 bushels on ground that had previously grown soybeans. The benefit is even greater on acres that have not grown soybeans for a number of years. The extra 1.25 bushels per acre easily delivers a significant return on investment for the relatively inexpensive inoculant. “Yields are higher, which means the plants would have needed more nitrogen and could have benefited from more nodules too,” says Bohner.
It pays to give soybeans the best chance to yield, especially the way today’s newest varieties are performing. “More producers want insect and fungicide seed treatments and find it convenient to add an inoculant as well when they buy their seed,” says Bohner.
Soybean producers have three main inoculant options: sterile peat, liquid or they can use pre-inoculated seed. But they often use the same formulation, year after year. Research shows that many growers do not know much about inoculants and want to know more. In a 2009 Ipsos Forward survey of 155 soybean growers in southwestern Ontario, 55 percent of nonusers of inoculants knew very little or nothing about soybean inoculants with 71 percent in total interested in learning more.
“Typically, a very small percentage of farmers have to substitute one corn hybrid for an earlier one because of weather-related issues in any given year,” said Mark Kerry, Monsanto Canada’s DEKALB sales manager. “2011 broke all those ‘norms.’”
In the southern regions of Ontario and Quebec, corn is usually planted between April 20 and May 30. For the farmers who got into the field to plant before the rain, some fields were flooded out. Kerry reported a record number of replants. “Normally, we replant about 5,000 acres of soybeans and 4,000 acres of corn. In 2011, we replanted 15,000 acres of soybeans and 20,000 acres of corn,” he said.
That was in addition to the number of farmers who simply didn’t get into their fields until June.
“We didn’t do much replanting in our area,” said Rick McCracken, farmer dealer with DEKALB. “A few of my customers were able to get into their fields and plant early. Those were the fields that drained better and didn’t flood. About 50 percent of the farmers around here had to wait until early June to plant.”
McCracken lives in the southern tip of Ontario on the land that forms a bridge between Lakes Erie and Huron. He farms more than 2,000 acres and has more than 60 customers. On a map, his town of Melbourne is located midway between Detroit, Michigan, and Toronto, Ontario. The average corn crop yield in the past 10 years for that area is 150 bushels per acre, although it has been edging up in recent years with improved DEKALB seed. MORE