If you’re wondering how to pick corn hybrids for the upcoming season—after the tumultuous 2019 season—you aren’t alone. Ken Ferrie says he is fielding a lot of questions from farmers about where to start the selection process. His advice: begin with yield potential.
“An eligible hybrid for your farm must have a good track record for yield—if not on your farm, then from sources that you can trust,” says Ferrie, Farm Journal Field Agronomist and owner of CropTech, Inc., near Heyworth, Ill.
“Don't worry about traits or characteristics or leaf structure or plant ear type. Don't even consider price or brand loyalty at this point,” he adds.
Instead, as you put together your draft board, select hybrids for consideration based on their performance by maturity group, realizing that full-season corns will tend to outperform shorter season corns—if the season is perfect. Of course, no season is perfect; weather always plays an important role.
“We mitigate risk by breaking up our maturities, and that means that we plant our early corns first and our later corns last,” Ferrie notes. “Some genetics may have the same GDUs to black layer but different GDUs to pollination. This is another way to mitigate risk.”
Next, don’t build your whole starting lineup with rookies or one-hit wonders.
“Put a few of them on the bench, but keep them on a small number of acres until they prove their way,” Ferrie advises. “Also, don't throw out hybrids just because you've been told they're old, and that the new kid is here to replace them. Keep those hybrids as long as they continue to perform, and make the new kids earn their way into the lineup through performance.”
Once your draft board is picked from multiple maturities, and are all-star performers, then group them into early- mid- and late-season hybrids so you have a large pool of hybrid candidates to choose from.
Now, look at each individual field and make a list of its strengths and weaknesses.
“As a coach, we need to add players to the team that will help strengthen the weak areas in our present lineup,” he says. “In the process of truly identifying a field's weaknesses and strengths, farm management, operators, and the pest team must come together and compare notes.”
The reason to involve those various individuals or teams is because each one has a different perspective on what’s important and needed in a hybrid and in each specific field.
“Management may be looking at volume discounts or non-GMO contracts; whereas, the operating crew is looking at how tough it is to get corn up in a certain field or how quick it runs out of water in another. Likewise, the pest team may be concerned about diseases or resistant weeds that they are trying to control,” Ferrie says.
“We need to recruit a bench of players that can handle all situations that arise on the farm," he adds. "You can't have a bench full of just quarterbacks. Somebody needs to catch the ball, somebody needs to run the ball, and someone needs to be on the defense.”
Listen to more of Ferrie’s insights at the following podcast link. The podcast is only 12 minutes long and will give you the information you need to make good hybrid-selection decisions for the coming season.