Home Interviews What to look for this planting season: John Swalwell, Monsanto

What to look for this planting season: John Swalwell, Monsanto

DES MOINES, Iowa – With grain prices at lower levels this year, farm inputs are going to have to earn their place in a given operation.

That’s according to Monsanto territory agronomist John Swalwell. He says a wildcard this year will be the weather. If it delays corn planting and producers opt for more soybeans, he says it will be worth a holistic approach; a thorough understanding of what new inputs will mean for the entire operation beyond their dollar amount.

In terms of this yea’rs pressure, Swalwell says there’s three areas to consider: weeds, insects and disease.

Swalwell says producers are beginning to realize that multiple modes of action and multiple applications are needed to effectively manage weeds. There’s no “easy button” top press.

He says weather plays a significant role; for example, the recent warm-up in southern Iowa has given a head start to some annual weeds, and that might become a problem once planters are rolling through fields. Swalwell advises ensuring the proper herbicide in the tank for a proper burndown.


This year, Swalwell says corn rootworm pressure depends largely on the weather. With the rootworm already in the soil, he says planting will provide the host plant – the second leg of the stool – with spring weather the only remaining unknown factor.


Early spring pressure not so much of a problem, but weather is always a wildcard; Swalwell says there are several species to keep an eye out for.

Northern corn leaf blight: Last year’s spring precipitation aided the spread of this particular pest, which received a second wind in August with another round of precipitation then. This year, Swalwell says June weather will be more significant in determining the spread of northern corn leaf blight than current precipitation levels.

Asian Soybean Rust and Sudden Death Syndrome: Swalwell says Asian Soybean Ruse is not expected to be a big problem, but SDS is on many producers’ minds. It was widespread last year and carries over in the soil.

Palmer amaranth: Swalwell says this startlingly aggressive pest is well-spread across the state, and enough that growers should be worried. If a producer doesn’t have it on his or her land yet, Swalwell advises learning to identify it. He also adds that multiple application times will be critical to keep palmer amaranth in check where it does crop up.

Click the audio player above this story to hear more from Swalwell about what to expect for the 2015 planting season.