Corn margins are tight: Is conventional corn an option for me? - DF Seeds

Corn margins are tight: Is conventional corn an option for me?

April 22, 2024

The short version of that answer is it depends.  

The long version of that answer is that there are several factors to determine if conventional corn is a good fit for your farm. The first factor to consider is seed cost. Conventional corn seed is cheaper, but by how much can vary as much as $100 a bag. Beyond price, other factors that can potentially take away from the savings are weed and insect control. With the right practices, those can be managed. That would result in conventional corn being a great opportunity for your farm to gain some additional margin this year.  


As corn seed becomes more and more expensive and more traits get added, you may be looking to save on seed costs. Changing to a conventional variety can be a great way to do that. Conventional corn seed is generally $50-$70 a bag cheaper than RoundUp Ready corn seed, $100-$120 a bag cheaper than a double stack and $140-$180 cheaper than a triple stack option. That’s anywhere from $20 to $72 an acre less in seed costs. That’s a big savings that can really help when cash is limited. However, you may need to spend a little more time with your corn. 

Why would you need to spend more time with your corn? Well, that’s because weed and insect control can be challenging in conventional corn. These pests can be controlled it just takes a little extra attention to detail. Scouting is vital in conventional corn. Insects and disease caused from insect damage are of more concerning with conventional corn. The Bt traits we have become so accustomed to in the last decade are not present in conventional corn. It may be necessary to use insecticide to control European Corn Borer, Corn Root Worm, Western Bean Cutworm or several other pests. Scouting for the presence of these pests is important. You also need to know the economic thresholds for when an application is warranted. Be sure you are consulting with your agronomist if you see these pests or signs of them. One example to watch for would be lodged corn.  


Another factor to consider is that raising conventional corn means no glyphosate applications. For most farmers, at this point, your spray program likely already includes other weed control options beyond glyphosate that offer additional control and residual activity. With conventional corn, you just add to those alternate products, using some slightly different combinations to achieve weed control. Grass control is the most challenging, but a good preemerge application with a residual and starting with a clean field, often leads to good results. One watch-out is rotation restrictions. If you are a specialty crop grower or raise alfalfa, be sure to check the rotation restrictions as they are often 18-24 months 

But wait…What about yield?  

Conventional corn can compete with all of the traited corns on the market. It has the same yield potential. Where it loses that potential is in management when weeds, insects, and disease pressure reduces corn yield. If you can mange through the potential problems discussed above, then you can maintain the same yield compared to the traited options. The traits just help reduce the amount of management needed to achieve top yields.  

So, is conventional corn a fit for your farm? 

It still depends, but if you think it could be or if you would like to have a conversation about it, reach out to your local DF Seeds representative. We are happy to help.  

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