Cater Seed to Field Needs

January 23, 2016 02:34 AM

Pair genetics with multi-hybrid or variety technology for potential yield gains

The cornerstone of the Farm Journal Test Plots program since its start in 1992 is to be the authoritative resource for unbiased and credible research on cutting-edge technology and production practices. As the concept of planting more than one hybrid or variety in the same planter pass has evolved, we were eager to couple the practical technology with our years of research on hybrid and variety genetics.    

Test Plot Details
Farm Site #1: Soybeans
Farmers: Don Schlessinger and Dan Reynolds, Weldon, Ill. 
Field size: 120 acres
Field specifics: Soybeans following
corn rotation, no-till, 30" rows
Soil types: Sable silty clay loam, Catlin silty clay loam, Ipava silt loam
Planting date: May 7, 2015
Varieties: Variety A: high ICD score; Variety B: high ICD score; Variety C: farmers choice; Multi-variety: Variety B and C
Plant population: 150,000
Farm Site #2: Corn
Farmers: Rod Wilson and Brad Beutke, Heyworth, Ill.
Field size: 81 acres
Field specifics: Corn
following soybeans, no-till,
30" rows
Soil types: Catlin silty clay loam,
Dana silt loam, Sable silty clay loam, Slopes: A-C2 
Planting date: May 4, 2015
Hybrids: Variety A: offensive hybrid; Variety B: drought-tolerant hybrid 
Plant population: VRT by soil type 30,000 to 34,000
Total nitrogen program: VRT 158 lb. to 218 lb. 
Starter blend: 3 gal. 10-34-0
Application timing and placement: 48 lb. ammonium fall-applied, 75 lb. spring UAN, 30 lb. to 90 lb. VRT sidedress

“Before jumping in head first with any technology, it’s important to evaluate your current setup and knowledge base,” says Farm Journal Field Agronomist Ken Ferrie. “Multi-hybrid  or variety technology will only shine if you have mastered planter fundamentals and understand your genetics.”  

To achieve optimum yield results when pairing the two together, take time to evaluate the various field environments. Instead of choosing the best seed to plant across the entire field, multi-hybrid or variety technology allows you to automatically switch between two hybrids or varieties on-the-go. Choose seed with the genetics that best suit the environment in that particular area of the field. Next, fine-tune your selection using hybrid and variety characteristics. 

For example, in corn, if dealing with an ongoing Goss’s wilt problem, use genetics with Goss’s wilt resistance before considering hybrid ear and leaf characteristics. (See October 2015 “Think Big Picture Hybrid Selection.”)

To dig deeper into this relationship, Ferrie and his crew planted portions of two fields, one in corn and the other in soybeans, using multi-hybrid or variety planter technology. To learn more about the fields and production practices that contribute to the yield results, see “Test Plot Details,” above.  

Approximately 36 acres at farm site #1 consist of high-pH soils, and the remaining 84 acres have normal pH levels. For years, the farmer cooperator has planted the same variety across the entire field, which caters to the normal-pH soils and has proven to be successful. Ferrie used portions of the 36 acres with high-pH soils to study multi-variety technology.    

In 2015, the study consisted of three varieties with different genetics from different companies. Variety A and Variety B both have high iron chlorosis deficiency (ICD) scores, catering to the areas with high pH. Variety C is the variety chosen by the farmer cooperator based on performance. In the multi-variety passes, the combination included Variety B and Variety C. 

In the high-pH area, Variety B, with a high ICD score, outyielded Variety C by 8.6 bu. In the normal-pH areas, Variety C had a 3.1 bu. gain compared with Variety B. Between Variety A and Variety B, both with high ICD scores, there was a 10-bu. yield gap in the high-pH areas. This is interesting to note before moving forward, Ferrie says, because Variety A assumably should have outyielded Variety C because of its high ICD score. 

The takeaway is the 10-bu. gap between Variety A and Variety B. Both have high ICD scores, but Variety A proves it might not be a good fit in the high-pH areas.   

“This is where you can get yourself into trouble by not doing your homework,” Ferrie says. “You can get the best varieties for high-pH areas, but if they are not suited for other environmental factors within the field, they won’t keep up.”  

In the normal-pH area, Variety C had a 2.4-bu. gain compared with Variety A and a 3-bu. gain compared with Variety B. The yield results prove not all varieties are created equal. In this instance, Variety A might not belong in this lineup, even though it outyielded Variety B in the normal-pH area. Lesson learned: The right varieties can make a strong yield impact if planted in the appropriate environment. 

Based on what he knows about the varieties and their yield results, Ferrie calculated three hypothetical scenarios if 10%, 50% and 90%  of the 120 acres had high-pH soils. Their goal was to evaluate where the multi-variety technology is most successful in soybeans.  

  Multi-hybrid technology shines in field  situations where 10% and 50% of the    acres have high-pH soil, grossing $24 and $13. 

At farm site #1, with 10% high-pH acres, alternating Variety B and Variety C resulted in a 100-bu. total increase compared with using Variety C alone. If 50% of the acres were high pH, using multi-variety technology shows a 180-bu. gain compared with Variety B, or a 510-bu. gain compared with Variety C. In 90% high pH, alternating Variety B and Variety C shows a 26.4-bu. gain compared with Variety B and a 918-bu. gain compared with Variety C. 

                  What Ken Ferrie                  Thinks You Need to Know
  • There is equal yield potential planting two types of seed in a single pass for both soybeans and corn. 
  • The key is choosing the right varieties and hybrids for peak performance in specific environments within a field.   
  • Do your homework before jumping into multi-hybrid or variety technology. 

Although extra bushels and yield gains paint the story, it’s essential to put numbers on paper to determine if this technology is a good fit for your farm. Ferrie and his crew calculated total gross revenue and per-acre improvement on the 120-acre field from the previous year when only Variety C was planted. The calculations are based on a soybean price of $8.65 and don’t take into account multi-hybrid or variety planter or technology costs.   

At farm site #1, with 10% of the acres high pH, the field would gross $882.30 more using multi-variety technology compared with planting Variety C alone. With 50% of the acres high pH, planting multi-variety boasts a $4,411.50 gross gain compared with Variety C and a $1,557 gross gain compared with Variety B. Once the field hits 90% high pH, the margins become slim showing a $228.36 gross gain compared with Variety B and a $7,940.70 gross gain compared with Variety C. In this instance at 90%, Variety B would be best for the entire field. Ferrie also calculated the per-acre improvement of the scenarios. With 10% and 50% of the acres high pH, simultaneously planting two varieties on-the-go grossed $24 and $13 per acre, respectively, compared with planting Variety C across the field. 

The ability to plant more than one hybrid and incorporate Hybrid A, an offensive hybrid, in the first three zones proved to be beneficial.

At farm site #2 in corn, the ability to plant more than one hybrid allowed for a unique mix of offensive and defensive hybrids. Approximately 60% of the 81-acre field is designed for a defensive hybrid due to light soils. Based on field history, a drought-tolerant hybrid performs best and safeguards the light soils. 

With multi-hybrid technology, Ferrie and his team planted an offensive hybrid in the remaining 40% of the field. The field is divided into seven zones (see chart below) based on yield history, soil type and slope. Using years of yield data, Ferrie observes zones 1, 2 and 3 are high-yielding environments; zones 4 and 5 are moderate-yielding environments; and zones 6 and 7 are low-yielding environments.  

More than 60% of the field is planted in a defensive hybrid due to light soils and their inability to hold water. In years past, Hybrid B is typically planted across the entire field. Using multi-hybrid technology provided an opportunity to plant Hybrid A, an offensive hybrid, in zones 1, 2 and 3, resulting in significant yield gains.  

Planting an offensive hybrid in zones 1, 2 and 3 harvested yield gains of 48 bu., 33 bu. and 9 bu., per acre, respectively. The remaining four zones, planted with a defensive hybrid, showed losses in three of the four zones.   

Naturally, the first reaction is to assume the farmer should have planted the entire field to Variety A. However, the offensive hybrid performed well due to several weather factors: above average rainfall throughout the growing season and near-perfect temperatures at critical growing-degree stages. However, if this data was pulled after the 2012 drought, yield gains would quickly swing the other way. 

“The yield gains from planting two hybrids in 2015, and incorporating Hybrid A into the mix, proved successful,” Ferrie says. “This is exciting as we were able to pair top hybrid characteristics and multi-hybrid planting for the ultimate effect.” 

These promising results can be attributed to the growing season as well as the knowledge of field environments, and variety and hybrid performance. “I can’t tell you enough how important it is to do your homework before jumping in,” Ferrie says. “This technology can have huge impacts if you are educated on all aspects of your operation before planting.”

This past year provided a great firstyear baseline for multi-hybrid  and variety technology. In 2016, Ferrie will continue evaluating the technology in different field environments and weather conditions. 


Thank You to Our Test Plot Partners
Case IH and Jay Barth; Versatile and Adam Reid; Central Illinois Ag and Kip Hoke; Kinze Manufacturing, Susanne Veatch and Phil Jennings; Unverferth Manufacturing and Jerry Ecklund; Apache Sprayers; Yamaha; Cory Muhlbauer; Trimble, Frank Fidanza and John Pointon; AirScout and Brian Sutton; Geovantage; Ag Leader and Luke James; Van Horn, Inc. and Terry Daugherty; Don Schlesinger and Dan Reynolds; Rod Wilson and Brad Beutke; Lawrence “Shorty” Olson; Crop-Tech Consulting, Isaac Ferrie, Brandon Myers and Eric Douglas.

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