October Newsletter: New Specialty Hybrids & More

Our Luther, IA Nursery: The Season in Review

The planting season for corn in Luther, Iowa started in April for the early starters, with some farmers beginning around April 10th. For most farmers, April 20th is the official starting point to comply with the crop insurance terms. We planted our breeding plot and yield test field in Luther the first week of May.
From this point until the end of the season at the end of September we had a normal accumulation of heat units, ending the season with 49 heat units below the normal average of 3225 H.U. for this area. In contrast, 2016 was 177 heat units above the average accumulation for the area and 131 heat units below the average in 2015. What was different this year from normal was the amount of rainfall during the season.

The data indicates that the amount of rainfall, with the exception of May, was below average every month until the end of the season in September. The lack of rainfall in July would have had a yield lowering effect on the corn crop. In spite of the lack of soil moisture, our yield test averages were above 190 bushels /acre and with some hybrids showing yields in the 220-250 bush/acre range.
The change in the weather conditions from year to year helps us make hybrid selections that tolerate heat and drought and produce stable yields.

A Costly Experience

Deer damage in our Winterset field

We have a field in Winterset, IA that was planted around April 15th. This was our first experience with early corn planting in the area; most farmers planted later. This made our hybrid corn available to the deer to feed on because other corn fields did not ear until much later.

We learned that if you are close to tree areas, you probably don’t want to be the first one with ear corn in the field, especially with a non-GMO hybrid. For farmers wanting to provide an early source of food on a CRP plot, early planting might be a good way to feed wildlife with some corn. A more normal planting date in May would make the corn more available for later feeding.

Race Horse Vs. Work Horse

Farm magazines use this terminology to describe hybrid corn characteristics. This terminology is used to describe hybrid performance in multi-location trials with variable conditions. A race horse is usually a hybrid that shows very high yields, under ideal conditions such as timely rainfall, high fertility levels and better than average agronomic practices. This hybrid usually would not excel under average growing conditions.
A work horse is a hybrid that yields around the average of a test of hybrids across locations and years. A work horse hybrid has good yield stability with better than average yields under average conditions. Work horse hybrids usually have defensive traits such as good disease resistance and good tolerance to heat and drought and tend to do better than other hybrids of a similar maturity especially under less than average conditions. In droughty areas, a work horse hybrid will be a better choice than a race horse hybrid.
When choosing hybrids, pay attention to seed company hybrid scores for stress tolerance, heat, drought and disease tolerance.


Corn Prices & Marketing Corn Through Livestock

The low grain prices and the high cost of production are the main topics in the press and in farm circles. The ag economy has been low for the last three years and it is hitting hard to all the sectors in the farm economy. The state budget that depends mostly on the success of the farm economy is also running at a deficit.
In contrast, large farm enterprises that use grain to make alcohol or to feed livestock in large confinements are seemingly doing okay and new large feeding operations are migrating to the Midwest to take advantage of the grain production areas. In tight years like this, farmers that have the flexibility to market grain through livestock can buffer their operations better than grain cash farmers. However, the corporate integrations of livestock production, processing and marketing tend to put constraint on farmers’ access to markets for their livestock. Niche markets for specialty products and consumer interest in knowing where their product is being produced, how the animals are raised and how they are treated will tend to create new markets and opportunities for entrepreneurs.

Updates on our Specialty Hybrids
We have a good supply of specialty hybrids for 2018. Here are a range of uses for each specialty hybrid:
Harvesting of our new white hybrid GEI 9584 W seed is finished and the seed will be conditioned:
Our new high lysine hybrid GEI 114 lys has also been harvested:

High Lysine Pancakes

The Johnston Lions Club, of which we are members, has an annual pancake breakfast. For the past few years, I have provided an alternative for gluten intolerant people. There is another member who has this problem and she was delighted to pass on the news to her celiac friends that this gluten-free pancake option was available.

I got the Hi Lysine Corncake/Waffle mix from Whole Grain Milling, one of our customers for GEI 101 lys (our high lysine hybrid). Because of the hypersensitivity of some celiacs, we make the pancakes away from the griddle used for the regular pancakes. The batter is made away from any flour source.
You would wonder why any gluten intolerant person would show up at a pancake breakfast. They finally know that this problem doesn’t have to keep them away. We have people who thanked us profusely for making this available. One woman said that it was the first time in more than 20 years that she was able to enjoy a pancake breakfast with her family. We also have people without the digestive problem who ask for this option because they prefer the taste of this corn pancake. Thanks to Whole Grain Milling for helping to make people happy!

Recipe: Chili & Cornbread

This month, the Johnston Lions Club had its first annual chili cook-off. The committee was planning to have shredded cheese to sprinkle on the bowl of chili and some crackers. I suggested that corn bread would be a welcome treat. I ended up coordinating the making of numerous pans of corn bread by the various members.
I used high lysine flour made from GEI 101 lys as the source of corn for the bread. A triple recipe is just right to make a jellyroll pan. To make sure that the product was uniform, I measured out all the dry ingredients for each batch and the baker added milk, eggs and oil. There were rave reviews.

Corn Bread Recipe
  • ¾ cup cornmeal*
  • 1 cup flour
  • ¼ cup sugar
  • ¾ tsp. salt
  • 3 ½ tsp. baking powder
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • ¼ cup vegetable oil
*I used corn flour instead of cornmeal
  • Stir (or sift) together dry ingredients.
  • Mix liquid ingredients together. Make a well in the dry ingredients, and then add liquid all at once. Beat thoroughly.
  • Pour into greased 8” square cake pan**. Bake at 400 degrees for 25-30 minutes.
**This recipe makes 9 muffins. Bake for 15 minutes.