Recent seed technology shows vast improvements in crop yields, profit | Local

DECATUR — Becky and Danny Speiser came to the Farm Progress show for a second day Thursday from their farm in Carlisle because they couldn’t get through all the exhibits in one day.

“Every time it comes through, it’s gets bigger,” Becky Speiser said.

The couple has come to the show in Decatur since the first year, and they said the weather is much nicer than it’s been in years past.

“That’s why we came back a second day, because it’s nice and we didn’t get to see everything,” Danny Speiser said.

One of their favorite parts of the show is the one-on-one conversations they can have with representatives from companies whose products they use.

“I went and talked to ADM because I use their horse feed; it’s nice to have that one-on-one instead of looking on the internet,” Becky Speiser said.

It was helpful to see the new varieties of corn, they said, especially being able to look at it and person and ask questions. Danny Speiser said it’s much better service than they get at stores.

“Usually when you buy feed, you are buying it out of the store and nobody knows about it, and here you can ask them questions and they will know about it.” he said.

They also like to see all the new technology and meet new people.

“We don’t take vacation so this is our vacation,” Danny Speiser said. “I don’t ever get off the farm.”

A combine and grain cart combo caught their interest, he said. He saw it on display but would really like to see it out in the field.

“It’s all so high tech,” Becky Speiser said.

Part of the appeal of the show is seeing all the new equipment, seed hybrids and even the drones.

“We see stuff that we’ll never be able to afford,” Danny Speiser said. “Or if i do get, it will be another 40 years.”

Syngenta showcase

At the Syngenta tent, the exhibits showed that as part of the move to increase yields more farmers are opting to plant rows of crops closer together.

While typically a field may be 30 inches apart, now rows may be 30 inches apart, and many farmers are moving toward 20-inch rows.

This will increase yield for farmers, but it also requires new equipment that can plant and harvest at this length as well. In other parts of the show, equipment was exhibited that could plant rows as close together as 12 inches.

While all this technology is attractive to some farmers, most say it is unrealistic to buy it, because they don’t farm enough land to need it. 

Another Syngenta technology aimed at increasing yield and plant health is treatments for diseased soil. Dale Ireland, a Syngenta representative, said Syngenta believes almost any soil can benefit by treating it to prevent diseases.

“Oftentimes, people and growers think (treatment) is only really valuable for cooler wetter conditions early in the season,” Ireland said. “And what this is showing is that even under warmer, drier disease conditions that disease treatments will help with Robust root development to get strong growing system.”

Many other booths around the show focused on root health and creating the best possible environment for plants to grow in.

Some suggested using cover crops or treating the soil for diseases. Farmers can also purchase seeds with technology in the genes to grow a strong and sturdy root system and plant stock that can withstand various weather conditions.

“A lot of places in Illinois this year it was wet early and then the water cut off, and if you set up your if you set up with roots like this, it helps,” Ireland said.

Monsanto using DNA

For Monsanto, it is becoming easier to research seed hybrids because the company can look for molecular markers that give an idea how a certain variety of seed will react in an environment, said Keith Merrill, a company representative.

The marker in the DNA helps explain how a crop will grow and what it is similar to, so they can focus research on what will work best in various climates. This increases yields and profits for farmers, Merrill said. 

They can do fewer in-field tests. Whereas before they may have to do 1,000, now they only have to do 200, so they got 800 varieties out of the way that researchers know won’t work. 

“And you think, I wished I never wasted my time with that,” Merrill said.

Then, Monsanto can plant more hybrids in more locations that will give farmers a good idea of how a variety will react in their field.  

This enables farmers to buy and plant seeds they know will grow well in their fields because the new hybrids have been tested and proven. 

“It’s the technology you want and the record that is going to bring you value at the end of the day,” Merrill said. 

Getting your attention

Throughout the Farm Progress Show, the exhibitors and companies spruced up their booths and tents with everything from fences, plastic floors, air conditioning, and even televisions and couches with decorative pillows placed inside grain bins.

On the outside, part of the displays included corn and soybeans, flags and signs, and even flowers planted around the walkways. These plants, which may be one flower or pot, cost $15 to rent, exhibitors said. And they have to give them back at the end of the show.

Decorations served other purposes as well.

At the Monsanto tent, visitors were provided with kits to start a garden, like the one they planted.

The purpose of the garden is to help rebuild the habitat of honeybees, which have been rapidly declining due to chemical use in fields, scientific studies have shown.

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