Is Conventional Corn a Viable Option for Farmers?

One question on the minds of many farmers today is whether conventional corn is a viable option for their operation. The fact is, farmers need to consider how profitable all types of crops will be for their specific operation before deciding between conventional corn and seed corn with certain traits.

While yield differences are a huge factor for farmers deciding which type of seed to plant, yield differences can vary significantly, not just from region to region, but even from farm to farm. Therefore, agricultural experts suggest relying on more than just yields when determining which types of seed to plant.

What follows are some of the more specific factors to consider when it comes choosing seed best suited for your farm and management practices.

  • Risk Assessment: Conventional corn germinates, grows vegetatively and creates grain in the same manner as a cultivar with modified genetic traits. In corn, these traits usually involve controlling stress factors which can negatively impact plant health and yield. Farmers who plan on raising conventional corn hybrids need to assess the risk factors involved when not using one or more of the trait options available to them. Typical risks to consider are insect pressure, weed pressure and drought conditions. Many stress factors can be managed through seed encoded with specific genetic traits. Conventional corn growers must evaluate the risk and manage the crop production accordingly, with alternative plans to mitigate negative stress.
  • Pest management: Conventional crops can be successfully raised with proper pest management and planning. Having a trusted source of agronomic experience with conventional seed crop production is a great benefit for growers interested in planting conventional corn. Remember that “Risk Assessment” includes more than pest control. It also evaluates the hybrid characteristics best suited for a specific location and the agronomic practices used.
  • Hybrid management: Depending on your seed supplier, you may have the option of planting a conventional hybrid best suited for your needs for a specific field, only to find the same hybrid has the traits you need for a field with a different risk assessment.
  • Seed cost: Germplasm costs of convention seeds will vary, but typically cost less per acre than seed with additional traits. Therefore, proper management and resource allocation need to be considered.

Farmers are in the business of growing the types of crops that are in demand. Since demand changes from year to year, farmers must continually assess any factors that come into play. Of course, the better a farmer understands the production economics at the level of their specific operation, the easier it will be to decide which type of corn seed will be the most profitable.

It is also important for farmers to review their options carefully from year to year because things can change quickly. For example, a few years ago, conventional corn seemed to be all the rage and it appeared that demand for this type of corn would continue to skyrocket. Although there was significant growth, it has tapered off a bit. The lesson learned is that assessing demand must be an ongoing process and to keep in mind that demand is not always married to established markets.

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