Between the Rows: inside Beck’s seed corn planting season

It’s been a busy seed corn planting season for Beck’s, the largest family-owned retail seed company in the United States.

Brownfield Ag News was recently on the ground at the company’s headquarters in Atlanta, Indiana, for a tour and update from Production Location Agronomist Darin Lucas.

“We have scouts out in the field right now checking in on some of our first planted corn, doing some post herbicide applications, and side dress applications. The crops are looking really good and I feel pretty confident in the stand in our corn and beans as well,” he says.

He says they were able to start planting seed corn around April 11th.  

“Our average start date in Atlanta, Indiana for planting seed corn is April 20th to 25th, so we felt pretty good about the start we had. That corn is looking excellent at the moment. I’m a little worried about some of the weather that it went through,” he says. “We had a lot of cold in late April, but luckily, we didn’t get any saturated cold that affected the stand too bad. Overall we’re feeling really good about the stand of corn and had a pretty good start to the season with very few hiccups.”

Lucas outlines some of the differences in the production of seed corn and commercial corn.

“Typically, with commercial corn production, you’re making one pass across the field. You at least hope you don’t have to go out and replant a field. In seed corn production, we’re making multiple passes with the planter in most situations. That means going back in after we’ve planted a what we call female in the field and going back in and planting our male delays. It’s a little different for each hybrid how long we go in to plant that male- typically somewhere between 40 to 60 heat units for our first male and another 40 to 60 heat units for our following male,” he says. “We want to make sure we get it a good pollen-shed window whenever the female silks are coming out. The pollen duration in the male inbreds isn’t quite as long as the hybrids that we produce, so we need to make sure we have pollen shed for a good duration in that field and that’s why we do the male delays. Often the inbreds are different relative maturities too, so a typical row pattern is four female rows to one male row, so we need to make sure that we spread our male plantings so that we get to account for that relative maturity difference and get a good pollen shed window.”

Beck’s is providing a look at its seed production process at all three stages: planting, detasseling, and harvest. Brownfield will be back in Atlanta, Indiana for the next two stages.

Until then, Lucas says the focus is scouting the fields.

“June is this transition period of focusing the agronomy and scouting,” he says. “We typically start on the detasseling season around the end of June and first of July.

Eighty-five percent of seed corn acres are on owned or rented ground and are within 50 miles of Atlanta, Indiana. The remaining 15 percent are contract grower acres.

Seed corn production at Beck’s involves a lot of steps including corn isolation planning, seed bed preparation, plant female, pre-emerge herbicide application, first male plant, second male plant, side dress, post-emerge herbicide application, spray for ECB, walk fields for rogue corn and off-types, fungicide application, field manager growth staging, cut female tassel to even field, quad pull, quad count, first pass for detasseling walking crew, first quality assurance inspection, spray for silk-eating insects, second pass for detasseling walking crew, second quality assurance inspection, third pass for detasseling walking crew, third quality assurance inspection, final close-out walk to check for purity, second fungicide application, spray for corn ear worm, destroy male rows, yield estimate, harvest with husk on ear to protect kernels, soil sample, apply fertilizer/lime per recommendations, and fall tillage.

Click here for more information about Beck’s.

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