Test fields are crop supermarkets
If you have trouble at the supermarket picking between two or three brands of the same product, that’s a far cry from the dizzying array of seeds farmers have to chose from for common crops like corn and soybeans.
Drivers along 190th Rd. can get a small sampling of the conundrum as they pass Limestone Rd., where 32 signs mark rows of corn and soybean varieties from Ag Services.
“This is our second year in this location,” vice president Adam Kleiber said. “Previous to that we had been rotating to other fields and we had been working with growers in those locations”
About 50 more such signs will be going up shortly at a Cooperative Grain and Supply test field near Kanza Rd. and US-56, seed manager Jeff Youk said.
There are about 40 varieties of soybeans and 40 varieties of corn across the two fields.
“That’s not all of them,” Youk said. “There are other people that sell seed in the county.”
Expansive choices in seeds allow farmers to choose varieties suitable for diverse soil composition, various fertilizing and crop protection products, weather conditions, and growing seasons.
“This year we’ve had a lot of timely consistent rains, so the varieties that produce better with moisture are going to shine,” Kleiber said.
Not all varieties will perform equally well.
“In our test plot, we’re not going to recommend every variety in that plot,” Kleiber said. “We’re going to test a lot more varieties to see what works best in that variety of ground.”
Youk noted that what works in one part of the county might not be best for another.
“If you go west of Marion, those are different corns than would go on upland ground like up near Durham, because the soils are deeper,” he said.
Seed history developed from local experience and seed supplier data influence decisions about what to plant, balanced against newer varieties coming to market, Kleiber said.
Ag Services sometimes manipulates aspects of how test crops are treated as they grow.
“Depending on what we want to test, there’s a lot of variables that can go into what can be tested,” Kleiber said. “We try to stay pretty consistent in our fertilizer. We do test some of the crop protection products we sell to show how well some will do compared to others.”
Youk said CGS sample crops are treated similarly.
Walking the rows of test corn and soybeans isn’t the only step involved in making seed choices. Farmers want results.
“When it’s harvested they can look at the yield data to see a comparison with what they’ve got,” Youk said.
Seed suppliers for both businesses supply seeds for the fields. What Kleiber called “experimental” seeds are sometimes part of the mix.
“The manufacturer does intend to take it to production and take it to sale,” he said. “We’ll start to build some history on those varieties so we can have confidence those will or will not work in our conditions.”
Ag Services has a field day starting 8:30 a.m. Aug. 17 for anyone to explore its test plot and consult with company representatives. A similar event for CGS customers is by invitation only, Youk said.