Think Big Picture Hybrid Selection

September 26, 2015 01:16 AM
planter_test plots

Test Plot Details

Farm Site #1: Illinois
Farmers: Bob Kuntz and Mike Craig, DeWitt County, Ill.
Field size: 80 acres
Field specifics: No-till, 30" and twin rows, corn following soybeans
Soil types: Buckhart silt loam, Ipava silt loam, Sable silty clay loam 
Planting date: April 26, 2014
Hybrid characteristics: Horizontal leaf, flex ear; horizontal leaf, more determinate ear; upright leaf, flex ear; upright leaf, more determinate ear
Plant populations: 30,000; 34,000 
and 38,000
Total nitrogen program: 163 lb. to 
223 lb.; yield goal: 220 lb. 
Sidedress rates and timing: 60 lb. of N and 120 lb. of N, applied May 21

Farm Site #2: Michigan
Farmer: Bob Kochendorfer, 
Allen, Mich.
Field size: 35 acres
Field specifics: Conventional till, 30" and twin rows, corn following soybeans 
Soil type: Sandy loam
Planting date: May 5, 2014
Hybrid characteristics: Fixed ear and flex ear 
Plant populations: 28,000, 33,000 and 38,000 and two variable-rate applications: high prescription averaged 34,621 and low prescription averaged 31,020
Total nitrogen program: 240 lb.
Sidedress rate and timing: 180 lb. 
of N, applied June 6  

Farm Journal Test Plots study the components to maximizing yield

Learning how to manage the three big components of yield—water, sunlight and nutrients—is an ongoing effort for the 24-year-old Farm Journal Test Plots program. How these components interact plays a big role when selecting the right hybrids for your fields. This report details what we learned in 2014 and how that builds on years of research by Farm Journal Field Agronomist Ken Ferrie in central Illinois and Associate Field Agronomist Missy Bauer in southern Michigan.   

Ferrie reminds farmers to first choose hybrids based on the available genetics that best suit your environment. Then fine-tune your selection using hybrid characteristics. For example, in a scenario with an ongoing Goss’s wilt problem, it’s essential to use genetics with Goss’s wilt resistance before considering hybrid ear and leaf characteristics.    

Farm Site #1: Illinois

In 2014, Ferrie and the test plots crew conducted a field trial in partnership with Great Plains Manufacturing and AgriGold Hybrids to study hybrid characteristics. To understand how the plot was conducted and how the growing environment affected yield results, see “Test Plot Details” on page 14.  

The DeWitt County, Ill., field provides several different soil types all managed by zones. A Yield-Pro planter was used to plant four hybrids in two row spacings at three plant populations and two nitrogen (N) rates. The hybrid characteristics were being evaluated in one field only rows away from each other. The four hybrids were: horizontal leaf, flex ear; horizontal leaf, more determinate ear; upright leaf, flex ear; and upright leaf, more determinate ear.

All hybrids were planted in 30" and twin rows at 30,000, 34,000 and 38,000 populations. This was replicated three times using a 60 lb. N sidedress rate and three times using a 120 lb. N sidedress rate. The sidedress rates were applied to help analyze the plots where N was not a limiting factor. In total, the plot received 163 lb. to 223 lb. of N.

In the sable silty clay loam at Farm Site #1, there was a 20 bu. gain with the upright leaf, flex ear hybrid in twin rows at a high population. In these repetitions, N was not a limiting factor. The repetitions were sidedressed on May 21 with 120 lb. of N. 

“We have learned you should have more N available for higher plant populations, whether we apply it or the soil supplies it,” Ferrie says. “This is especially true in flex genetics.”

Previous plots have shown true flex genetics can flex in low populations and make up for low ear counts, but they seem to have the highest risk of flexing backward when under stress.

In this scenario, the yield gain lies in the sable silty clay loam paired with the highest horsepower hybrid. Once combined, the magic lies in choosing the ideal row spacing and population. According to the bottom chart at right, pushing populations in narrow rows allows the plants to capture all available 
sunlight, resulting in a 300 bu. average.  

“This average is a testimony to a perfect growing season and how using our years of knowledge to create the perfect combination of soil type, hybrid, population, row spacing and N applications can impact yield,” Ferrie says.

Take note: In the same sable silty clay loam using the same protocols in twin rows, the upright leaf, flex ear hybrid yielded 300 bu., but the horizontal leaf, more determinate ear hybrid only hit 246 bu. (see page 16). 

“By putting a horizontal hybrid on productive soil, you’re essentially putting a ceiling on yield,” Ferrie says. “Therefore, you stopped paying for the inputs at 34,000 population with a 60 lb. N sidedress rate.”

At Farm Site #1, in the buckhart silt loam, pushing the populations in the horizontal leaf, more determinate ear hybrid made little to no difference in yield. There was less advantage to narrow rows because the hybrid captured all available sunlight.



Farm Site #2: Michigan

Bauer and crew found similar trends in the second year of their hybrid by population study. A fixed ear and flex ear were planted in 30" and twin row spacings at 28,000, 33,000, 38,000 and two variable-rate populations. The high variable-rate prescription averaged 34,621 across five management zones. The populations ranged from 39,000 to 32,000. The low variable-rate prescription averaged 31,020. The populations ranged from 34,000 to 29,000. The field had a N sidedress rate of 
180 lb. in a 240 lb. N program. 

In the sandy loam soils, the flex hybrid in twin rows at the low variable-rate prescription yielded 8 bu. higher than any of the straight rate populations. Even the flex ear hybrid in 30" rows at the low variable-rate prescription outyielded the straight rates. This proved to be the best economical choice; however, the twin rows received a greater net profit per acre compared with the 30".  

“It’s more important in flex ear hybrids to use variable-rate populations because they can’t handle the stress of higher populations,” Bauer says. “However, in certain management zones, they can be pushed with variable-rate populations.”

The fixed ear hybrids yielded similar at 33,000 and the high variable-rate prescription averaging 34,621. Data show fixed ear hybrids seem to handle the stress of higher populations.

A second hybrid characteristics plot  in Angola, Ind., shows similar results in 30" rows. The flex ear yielded 
7.2 bu. more and the fixed ear yielded 4.6 bu. more in the variable-rate populations compared with the 33,000 straight rate population.  

“Our data show flex genetics respond more to variable-rate applications compared with the fixed ear,” Bauer says. “All told, though, the variable-rate applications won 75% of the time in flex and fixed ear hybrids.” 


What Ken Ferrie and Missy Bauer Think You Need to Know

  • A soil’s water and nutrient supply needs to match a hybrid’s leaf and ear characteristics.
  • Understand hybrid characteristics to prepare for technology such as multi-hybrid planters. 
  • Planter fundamentals, such as accurate seed placement and meter checks, need to be spot on when
    moving to higher populations.





Thank You to Our Test Plot Partners

Our thanks go to: AgriGold Hybrids, Mike Kavanaugh and Justin Warren; AirScout and Brian Sutton; Case IH, Dan Klein, Kyle Russell, Ryan Schaefer, Bill Hoeg, Luke Gazaway and CJ Parker; Central Illinois Ag and Kip Hoke; GeoVantage; Great Plains Manufacturing, Tom Evans and Doug Jennings; Kinze Manufacturing and Susanne Veatch; New Holland, Mark Hooper, Gary Wojcik and Paul Canavan; Burnips Equipment and Carl VanderKolk; OmniStar and John Pointon; Trimble, Sid Siefkin and Brian Stark; Unverferth Manufacturing and Jerry Ecklund; Wells Equipment; Versatile and Adam Reid; Bob Kuntz and Mike Craig; Crop-Tech Consulting, Isaac Ferrie; Bob and Mary Kochendorfer; Willibey Brothers; B&M Crop Consulting, Bill Bauer, Amanda Anderson, Jared Haylett, Lauren Mezo and Clara Erickson 


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