Thinking about planting more conventional corn after soybeans?

Conventional crops require more intensive pest scouting and management, says agronomist Dorian Gatchell, Minnesota Agricultural Services, Granite Falls, Minn., who works with several conventional corn growers.

Here are some of the questions he asks growers:

  • Do you rotate corn and soybeans?
  • Are your corn rootworm beetle counts low?
  • Have your corn crops stood well in the past?
  • Does your refuge corn perform as well as your Bt corn?
  • Do you have the time, manpower and equipment needed to manage conventional corn?

Jeff Schwartz, Wood Lake, Minn., is a beginning farmer. Lower cost conventional corn is a good fit for his small operation of 160 acres, he says, although he plants some Bt corn, too. “The savings on seed is quite a bit, and I’m trying to find ways to keep a small farm competitive.” Although he works off the farm, “I can handle a more labor-intensive crop.”

Including conventional corn in your cropping plan can also help combat Bt-resistant corn rootworms by lowering selection pressure, says Mike Gray, University of Illinois entomologist.

“If you’re in an area where Bt resistance has been confirmed, or if you’re worried that the trait isn’t performing as well as it used to, rotate to another crop.” In the corn year, he suggests planting a non-Bt hybrid with a soil-applied insecticide, or switching to a hybrid with pyramided Bt traits.

“Most important, adopt a longer-term management strategy, rather than relying on the same practice year after year,” Gray says.