Choosy Farmers Choose Corn Hybrids Wisely

November 18, 2010 08:04 AM
Choosy Farmers Choose Corn Hybrids Wisely

Talk about pressure. You get one shot at nailing the right seed choices each year. Peter Thomison, an Ohio State University extension agronomist considers it to be one of the most important decisions a grower makes each year.

"It's a decision that warrants a careful comparison of performance data," says Thomison, who also holds an appointment with the Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center. "It should not be made in haste or based on limited data. Planting a marginal hybrid or one not suitable for a particular production environment imposes a ceiling on the yield potential for a field before it's been planted."
Corn acreage, previous crop, soil type, tillage practices, desired harvest moisture, and pest problems all determine the relative importance of such traits as dry down, insect and disease resistance, early plant vigor and plant height. End uses of corn, such as grain or silage, on-farm use, and food-grade or non-GMO also need to be considered when selecting the right hybrid.
Here are some tips from Thomison to consider when making hybrid selection:
  • Select hybrids with maturity ratings appropriate for a geographic area. "Corn for grain should reach physiological maturity or "black layer" one to two weeks before the first killing frost in the fall," Thomison says. Use days-to-maturity, growing degree-day (GDD) ratings, and harvest grain moisture data from performance trials to determine differences in hybrid maturity.
  • Choose hybrids that have produced consistently high yields across a number of locations. "Choosing a hybrid simply because it's a "triple stack" or "quad stack" or possesses appealing cosmetic traits, like "flex" ears, will not ensure high yields," said Thomison. "Instead, look for yield consistency across environments. Hybrids will perform differently, based on region, soils and environmental conditions, and growers should not rely solely on one hybrid characteristic or transgenic traits to make their product selection."
  • Plant hybrids with good standability to minimize stalk lodging. This is particularly important in areas where stalk rots are perennial problems, or where field drying is anticipated.
  • Select hybrids with resistance and/or tolerance to stalk rots, foliar diseases, and ear rots.
  • Never purchase a hybrid without consulting performance data. "Results of state, company, and county replicated hybrid performance trials should be reviewed before purchasing hybrids," Thomison says. "Because weather conditions are unpredictable, the most reliable way to select superior hybrids is to consider performance during the last year and the previous year over as wide a range of locations and climatic conditions as possible." If limited to single year data, it's important to try to evaluate a hybrid's performance across a range of different growing conditions.
Company and private trials are sources of data, but it’s a good idea to seek unbiased results. Most land-grant universities conduct well-designed, statistically sounds, replicated and randomized hybrid trials. This year’s early fall is also bringing information from university trials. Read Thomison’s complete article on hybrid selection is available online.

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