The Farm Journal Test Plots are made possible with dozens of industry partnerships. In the field, data is verified with scale carts.
Test Plots track how flexed and fixed hybrids respond
The first step in maximizing yield is choosing the right hybrids for your fields. It’s how you manage those hybrids, though, that propels you to the finish line with more bushels in the bin.
Every hybrid responds differently to stress—plant densities, nitrogen management, disease, insects and all the other variables during the season. To better understand how stress impacts yields, Farm Journal Field Agronomist Ken Ferrie has led efforts in the Farm Journal Test Plots to learn more.
"First and foremost, farmers do and should pick hybrids based on the best yield potential for their fields," Ferrie says. "Then, with those selections, it’s important to know how to manage each hybrid for its maximum yield."
Five years ago, Farm Journal started a partnership with AgriGold Hybrids to see how hybrids respond to nitrogen timing and rates. For the past two years, the test plot crew studied how fixed and flex hybrids respond to nitrogen and population.
"In our plots, we have learned fixed hybrids can be pushed to add up to 10 bu. to the yield just by increasing populations," Ferrie says. "We’ve learned that while flex hybrids have a tremendous capacity to flex up in yield, they carry a risk when put under stress with too much population or nitrogen deficiencies."
In 2011, four hybrids were placed in two different fields, one fixed number and one flex number in each plot. The planted populations were 32,000, 34,000 and 36,000 plants per acre. At sidedress, three nitrogen rates were applied.
"We started looking at the effect that row spacing has as well," Ferrie says. "One of our fields was planted to 30" rows, and the other was planted with a Great Plains Yield-Pro twin-row planter."
In the field planted to 30" rows, 90 lb. of nitrogen was applied before emergence, and sidedress rates included 60 lb., 90 lb. and 120 lb.
"In this plot, pushing populations haunts the flex hybrid but not the fixed hybrid," Ferrie says. "From our previous studies, we know it’s important to support higher populations of the flex hybrid by following up with increased nitrogen, but at 36,000 plants per acre, the highest nitrogen rate could not bring this hybrid back to the same yield as the lowest population. We know nitrogen is important, and we know we caused nitrogen stress. We tried to cause both population and nitrogen stress. In the fixed hybrid, the higher population didn’t stress it as much as the lowest nitrogen rate."
In 30" rows, many of the trends were similar, with the addition of an emerging trend based on years of data.
- November 2012