Stine’s Ask the Agronomist blog is your source to the latest information from our expert team, including advice and insight on field practices, product recommendations, planting and harvest updates, new technologies, crop management, innovative research and information about how to keep your farm operation running smoothly year round. 

  • A sweet advantage: Stine® soybeans are a perfect pairing for the Vidalia onion industry

    A sweet advantage: Stine® soybeans are a perfect pairing for the Vidalia onion industry

    April 27, 2023

    Posted by Stine Seed in Products

    Stine is synonymous with corn and soybeans, but we’re also taking part in something exciting in the onion industry, and we think it’s pretty “sweet.”

    Southern Georgia is home to rich, well-drained soils that are low in sulfur. This environment contributes to the sweet flavor of Vidalia onions — Georgia’s state vegetable. According to Explore Georgia, more than 14,000 acres of Vidalias are grown in the region, and around five million 40-pound boxes are shipped each season. Vidalias are a milder onion that are only found in Georgia, not just because of the environment that supports the crop’s unique flavor, but because of the Vidalia Onion Act of 1986 that states only 20 counties in the U.S. (all in Georgia) are allowed to grow and market the crop. The legislation trademarked the name “Vidalia onions,” so those who mimic the product outside the region cannot market the crop after its namesake. 

    So, where does Stine fit into the equation with the more than 80-year-old Vidalia onion industry? Crop rotation.

    It boils down to genetics and timing.

    Scott Wagner, key accounts manager for Stine, has spent the last two years traveling to the Vidalia region, specifically to Toombs County, where growers have quickly recognized the advantages of Stine soybean genetics.

    “Stine soybeans are gaining ground in the region because of the genetic material we have available for that environment,” says Wagner. “Growers typically rely on other cash crops, such as peanuts and corn, to rotate into the mix after an onion harvest because soybeans aren’t always as profitable. But with Stine’s advanced lines of conventional and Enlist E3® soybeans, Vidalia growers now have access to the industry’s leading material in maturities more conducive to their environment.”

    Growers can easily rotate from Vidalias to soybeans and back again without missing a step, thanks to Stine’s shorter maturity products.

    “It all boils down to timing,” says Wagner. “Planting season for Vidalias begins mid-November, the crop overwinters in the soil, and then harvest starts in April and is typically completed by mid-May. Growers can plant soybeans immediately after, churn the crop and get it out of the field before the next onion season begins.”

    But soybeans haven’t always been a viable crop rotation option in the region.

    “A few years back, you might find growers using 7.0 maturity soybeans, and they weren’t getting the time or growing degree days the crop needed to produce yield,” says Wagner. “Now, we’re pushing our 4.6 to 5.8 maturity products, and growers are getting more pods, not just vegetation. It’s becoming a cash crop option for them, and we’re seeing an average 60–65 bushel/acre in the region — a clear improvement from a few years ago.”

    Other benefits of soybeans include the nitrogen credits they leave behind in the soil and clean fields after harvest.

    “Soybeans not only inject more nutrients for the onions, they leave behind less biomass than other crops, making it easier to start planting right after soybean harvest,” said Wagner. “There’s also the advantage of herbicide residuals with the Enlist program. Unlike other herbicides, the onion crop is not impacted by the leftover residual, so it’s safe to apply with your soybean crop. Vidalia seed beds must be clean to plant the crop, so soybeans are beneficial in that aspect as well.”

    Another consideration leading growers to rotate to soybeans — the diseases for both crops are different. Soybeans are a good transition crop for growers battling common onion diseases such as pink root or sour skin.

    “The diseases soybeans fight are completely opposite of what onions fight,” said Wagner. “It’s not a true rotation if you can’t get away from a certain disease pressure.”

    All hands on deck

    Onion production is a tedious but rewarding business for growers in the region, and it’s their No. 1 priority. Soybeans are becoming more profitable for them, but there’s no replacement for their Vidalia business. And it keeps them busy.

    “The Vidalia planting season technically starts in November, but as seedlings the crop spends roughly 45–60 days growing in a seed bed. This process starts in September,” says Wagner. “Each grower has their own seed bed. They typically pick a field or two and plant their own Vidalia nursery. Because they are bare root transplants, they must start their growing process in a nursery. After they’ve reached the proper stage for planting, workers add them to sacks as bundles to be planted again as a complete crop.”

    Something unique to Vidalias is they are planted and harvested by people and not machines — an effort that requires all hands on deck.

    “Workers transplant the onions from the nursery to the fields by hand,” says Wagner. “And at harvest, the workers come back to pick the onion and cut the greenery. There are machines that help the process, but at the end of the day, each onion is touched in the field. It’s a very labor-intensive process.”

    A niche market

    Although not the primary crop in the area, Stine soybeans have found a niche market in southern Georgia.

    “Our soybeans are working well down there,” says Wagner. “Our conventional soybeans are performing, and our Enlist E3 lines are also shining. Outside our genetics, we hear growers say they’ve been waiting for a company like Stine — a family-owned business that isn’t just telling them what to do. We’re there to support them however they need us.”

    Stine president Myron Stine recently spent time with growers in the region to discuss Stine’s position in the industry and how Stine can help increase profitability for their secondary crop market. We’ve hired an independent sales representative in the area who supports our growers in the region and is available to assist with any agronomic questions they may have, including product placement, row spacing and population considerations.

    “We really admire these growers,” says Wagner. “They plant and harvest something almost every month; they don’t get any time off. It’s been a pleasure learning about their operations and the Vidalia onion industry. It’s truly a unique and beautiful crop. We’re just happy Stine can help with the process.”

  • Iowa is the Bull’s-Eye for Jeff Hopkins

    Iowa is the Bull’s-Eye for Jeff Hopkins

    April 20, 2023

    Posted by Stine Seed in Stine News

    Traveling across the U.S. as a professional archer led Jeff Hopkins and his wife Tara to know they wanted to call Iowa home. When they visited Iowa, they fell in love with the land, an opportunity to farm and a central location for travel across the country. The couple knew they had found the bull’s-eye for a match made in heaven.

    “I am from a farming family on the eastern shore of Maryland,” Jeff explains. "My grandfather was a dairy farmer, and my parents still have a grain farm. I grew up with farming and the outdoors, where archery came into play — my dad and grandfather loved to hunt.”

    A decade ago, the Hopkins bought a farm in Lacona, Iowa, where they grow corn and soybeans and operate a land consulting business focused on improving land for hunting. It gives Jeff and their son Scott, who is 24 years old, an opportunity to live out their shared passions — farming, hunting and competing in national archery tournaments.

    While bow hunting started as a hobby decades ago for Jeff, this year marks his 30th year of being a professional archer. His accolades are impressive, including earning the designation of 11-time world champion and 10-time shooter of the year, and he has won 65 national titles. He is a familiar face on national television, from ESPN once covering the sport to the Sportsman Channel and YouTube TV dominating coverage today.

    “I won my first world championship in 1997 and was invited to go elk hunting with Dale Earnhardt shortly before he died," Jeff says. "In archery, you meet one person, and it opens up another door. It's about relationships, much like farming and the people of Iowa. I’m very blessed and thankful for the lifestyle it has given my family and me."

    While being a professional archer involves a lot of travel, it fits well with farming. Archery tournaments end in August, just in time to gear up for the fall harvest and, of course, Iowa's incredible deer hunting season. 

    With a personal and professional legacy built on family values and relationships, that same philosophy attracted Jeff to Stine® Seed Company. 

    “Through the farming community, I heard some wonderful things about Stine and started talking with my sales representative,” says Jeff, who started growing Stine products last year.

    Both the soybeans and corn performed very well, despite experiencing recent dry growing conditions in Iowa.

    “Beyond the quality of products, I like that it’s a family business,” Jeff adds. “That’s important to me. I can never talk about myself without talking about my family. Without their help, guidance and support, I wouldn’t be blessed with the ability to have two careers that I love.”

  • Corn rootworm is an increasing concern this season

    Corn rootworm is an increasing concern this season

    April 13, 2023

    Posted by Stine Seed in Crop Management

    Growers in the Midwest considering another corn-on-corn year may wish to consult their local agronomist or university extension specialist before planting. According to the 2022 Regional Corn Rootworm Monitoring Network Summary issued by the Corn Rootworm IPM Regional Working Group, corn rootworm populations are anticipated to be high again in areas of Iowa, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Michigan, Nebraska, Illinois, North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska and Kansas. These states are at an elevated risk as they produce a lot of corn-on-corn acres, and findings show that rootworm is becoming more resistant to the Bt trait.  

    The report highlights, “Western corn rootworm (WCR) and northern corn rootworm (NCR) continue to dominate as economic pests throughout the U.S. and Canada … Recently, high corn rootworm populations and the development of resistance to Bt corn hybrids in some areas has sparked greater interest in scouting and alternative management of corn rootworms.”

    Stine® agronomists are on heightened alert as they have monitored the rootworm crisis in their regions and continue to spread word of the potential for yield loss if not properly managed. According to the Crop Adviser Institute, rootworms cause more than $1 billion in damage and control costs annually in the U.S..

    “With each passing year, we see the rootworm population increasing throughout the Corn Belt,” says Tom Larson, Stine’s director of agronomy. “Unfortunately, as we know well, these pests can devastate a crop. If you haven’t started planting yet, it’s not too late to consider a switch to soybeans on fields that experienced high rootworm pressure last year. If you’ve already planted corn-on-corn this year, talk to your local agronomist or extension expert to discuss what can be done in-season to slow the spread.”

    2022 Findings
    According to the 2022 results, 38% of sites tested exceeded the trapping threshold. The report notes, “For corn, the trapping threshold is 2 beetles/trap/day, regardless of species. For soybean, the trapping threshold is 1.5 western corn rootworm/trap/day; no soybean sites exceeded the threshold. These trapping thresholds indicate that the grower should consider switching up management practices the following year, because adult populations indicate that egg-laying in the field will likely result in severe larval injury the following year if corn is planted.”

    Other report findings concluded western corn rootworm is the most dominant species throughout the Corn Belt but populations of northern rootworm are increasing, and fields with a history of corn rootworm are likely to have continuous issues with populations in the future. Of the sites that exceeded the trapping threshold, at least 59% were in continuous corn.

    The most common issues reported in infected fields included goosenecking/lodging, high beetle populations or a combination of the two. Another reported issue was resistance to the Bt trait, which is problematic as growers have relied on the trait to suppress populations in difficult fields for  several years.  

    “These findings align with what experts have been warning growers about,” says Larson. “Corn rootworms are not to be taken lightly. If it’s a problem one year, it will be a problem the next.”

    Scouting tips
    There are two types of corn rootworm prevalent in the Midwest — Western and Northern. Both are capable of laying eggs that can overwinter in the soil, so early-season scouting should include digging below the soil to check the roots of the plant. Later in the season, as they transition from larvae to adult rootworm beetles, they can be found directly on the plant as they feed off the leaves and silks as adults. This can greatly affect pollination during silking. 

    “Early in the planting season, you’ll want to scout for the rootworm larvae by digging the soil around the corn plant,” says Larson. “Iowa State University Extension and Outreach has some great guidance for sampling, including the ‘float test,’ which involves filling a bucket of water and placing the soil and roots directly into the bucket so the larvae float to the top. This can help you detect any root damage to the plant.”

    Iowa State also has an interactive node injury scale, which can help growers decipher the level of damage caused by corn rootworm larvae.

    Later in the growing season as plants near silking and pollination, growers should be on the lookout for adult rootworm beetles. Western corn rootworms — the most commonly reported — are typically yellow or green and have black striping on their wings. Northern corn rootworms are light green or brown with no distinguishable marks. There are also Southern corn rootworm beetles that aren’t as common in the Midwest. These are yellow and green and have black spots on their backs.

    “If you’re scouting for adult beetles, you’ll want to consider the time of day,” says Larson. “Research shows beetles are more active in the morning or late afternoon as they feed on silks and leaves, so it’s best to scout during their most active times.”

    In addition to scouting, growers can employ sticky traps, which can help determine the amount of infestation. Sticky traps were one of the methods used by the Corn Rootworm IPM Regional Working Group for their 2022 findings report.  

    “It’s clear that back-to-back corn-on-corn is an instigator when it comes to adding to the corn rootworm problem,” says Larson. “Crop rotation will continue to be critical in controlling populations.”

    If crop rotation isn’t a viable strategy this year, growers need to prioritize scouting throughout the growing season. If rootworm larvae or beetles are detected, the next step would be to examine the level of infestation. From there, having a conversation with an agronomist or local extension expert can help determine next steps. One in-season strategy they might recommend is a soil- or foliar-applied insecticide. While it’s not the end-all strategy, it can help control the population throughout the important pollination stage.

    “The biggest action growers can take is to plan ahead,” says Larson. “What you can do in season is minimal, so growers need to spend time discussing crop rotation and what traits make the most sense to plant next year. We know Bt traits are showing some signs of resistance, but there are likely other options growers haven’t discussed with their salesperson. Stine has an entire lineup of  Agrisure Duracade® brand corn, for example, which has proven effective in mitigating corn rootworm. It’s definitely worth the conversation.”

    One consideration to keep top of mind when discussing future strategies, according to the 2022 report, “Extension professionals do not recommend using multiple tactics to manage corn rootworm as research demonstrates no yield benefit, no reduction of larval feeding injury, and no reduction in adult emergence when both a Bt-rootworm hybrid and soil-applied insecticide are used. Furthermore, multiple management tactics could hasten resistance development.”

    For more tips on preparing your fields for corn rootworm infestation this year and next, contact your local sales rep. Stine can help you maximize the potential of each and every acre by keeping corn rootworms at bay.