SIOUX FALLS, SD (KELO) Seeds planted this spring will help determine the yields farmers will achieve in what has so far been a very dry year for most of the Upper Midwest.

Corn and soybean growers can choose drought tolerant or drought tolerant seed. Some of them have, said two seed companies in KELOLAND.

Glen Davis, the managing director of Legend Seeds at De Smet, said there hasn’t been a big increase in farmers choosing drought tolerant seeds. If you draw a line using Interstate 29 as a divider, as you go west of that, more farmers may choose drought-tolerant seed than farmers east of I-29. Legend Seeds works with growers in Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota and Wisconsin.

Seth Hill, CEO of Champion Seeds in Ellsworth, Minnesota, said farmers with lighter soils may have chosen a hybrid with a more specific genetic makeup for hardiness or drought tolerance.

A farmer may also choose to plant a different variety of seed in different parts of the field.

Some (producers) do, Hill said.

It can be varied across the company, Davis said. The field too. With precision planting, a farmer can use different hybrids or different populations (planted) in a field.

Champion will also blend the soybeans for farmers, Hill said. It is usually a 50-50% composition of two genetic packages. The farmer will use that mix throughout the field, Hill said.

Some farmers have even split the field between two genetic hybrids, he said. The blend winds up almost every time, Hill said.

Champion Seeds works with farmers in Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota, Iowa, Nebraska, parts of Wisconsin and Missouri.

The June 15 drought monitor map shows abnormally dry and drought phases in parts of South Dakota, Minnesota, Iowa, and Nebraska.

Hill was at a conference last week where a meteorologist described him as stuck in a cycle where the jet stream disappeared. The rains pass but are not heavy or widespread.

In southwest Minnesota 10 miles can be very different. One farmer received an inch of rain and the other received 2/10, Hill said.

Farmers have experienced droughts years before, but compared to 24 or 25 years ago, genetic improvements in seeds are making a difference, Hill and Davis said. The improvements may help farmers’ fields better survive an extremely dry year, they said.

I am absolutely amazed, Davis said of the changes since 1999. He said the seed industry and its improvements are just the tip of the iceberg.

In terms of seeds compared to 1999, it’s not even close, Hill said how much better the situation is.

Hill said he was able to run comparisons to a few 1990s varieties and that the dry-year yield results aren’t even close. You can tell there have been a lot of innovations, he said.

Had these conditions occurred in 1999 or the 1990s, we would be in for a disaster, Hill said. While conditions are not favourable, farmers are in a better comparative position in 2023, she said.

Davis and Hill said improvements in seed mean farmers are paying more for that seed.

In a year like 2023, farmers may not see large increases in yields, Hill said. But this is a year when you look at the lowest yield or lowest level of yield on a crop, the return on investment is significant, Hill said.

Twenty-five years ago with soybeans, the farmer might have gotten 20 to 25 bushels of corn, he said. This year, the yield could be 40 to 50 bushels, Hill said.

While the seeds have improved the situation for farmers, Hill and Davis said rain would be welcome in their service areas.

Eventually, we’ll need some water, Hill said.

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