Take an Inside Look at Top Hybrid Characteristics

July 14, 2015 09:54 AM
Take an Inside Look at Top Hybrid Characteristics

Just like people come in all shapes and sizes, corn hybrids come in all different leaf structures, heights and ear sizes. Some are better suited for areas with low water holding capacity, where others do well in wet soils. You can tailor your hybrid selection to specific fields to maximize yield and energy efficiency.

“A hybrid plot is one of the most useful and biggest returns on investment plots you can put on your farm,” says Ken Ferrie, Farm Journal Field Agronomist. “The shelf life of today’s hybrids is short—making it even more important to have access to high-end plot information.”

Planting a hybrid characteristics plot teaches you what does well on your farm, where you can change products to maximize yields and how each company’s rating system compares. Here is a short list of things to look for in your hybrid characteristics plot:

  • Emergence vigor can be checked by performing stand counts, watching days to emergence, digging where seedlings are missing to identify problem, keeping a sample of seed to check quality and keeping detailed records for the end of the season.
  • Plant height can be measured tall, medium or short. In each plot you should have a ‘ringer’ hybrid to compare plant height. Use these results to place hybrids appropriately, such as don’t put tall hybrids next to short hybrids because it can have a shading affect and decrease photosynthesis. Stalk height is also a key factor in product standability.
Identify plant height by comparing it to your 'ringer' plant (hybrid that you know what it looks like and what to expect).
  • Leaf orientation is a key factor to maximize sunlight interception. There are four basic leaf structures, pendulum, semi-pendulum, semi-upright and upright. Pendulum leaves mean that only the top leaves capture sunlight which leaves the bottom leaves to fall off or suffer. Upright leaves capture sunlight from the top to the bottom of the plant. When looking at leaf structure see if lots of sunlight hits the ground it could mean you need to increase planting population.
  • Tassel shape can be a quick way to tell the difference between two hybrids that may have the same leaf orientation and shape. It can also help indicate if hybrids may be from similar or the same genetic family. Late planting can also cause a deformed tassel since the plant will abort leaves and part of the tassel to catch up.
Tassels come in a variety of shapes and sizes, anywhere from long and skinny to a chimney sweep appearance.
  • Disease pressure throughout the plot can indicate which hybrids are resistant and which are more susceptible.
  • Green snap test each hybrid using the push test during times of rapid growth. If the plant comes back it may not be as susceptible, if it breaks it may be more susceptible. This doesn’t mean more susceptible plants are bad. You will need to be strategic where you place them.
  • Ear type and cob color learn if it is a flex, semi-flex, semi-determinant or determinant ear to know where the best placement is and what populations may make it more successful. Determinant ears tend to do better at higher populations where flex ears can do well at lower populations. Cob color can help you quickly identify different hybrids or refuge plants.
There are different types of ears and each is suited to a certain environment. Determinant does well in pushed populations and flex can go either way, even flexing backwards in poor conditions.


If you create a hybrid characteristics plot, have a uniform rating system. For example, Missy Bauer, Farm Journal Associate Field Agronomist, uses a one to five rating for determinant versus flex ear growth. During the season she rates each hybrid and keeps detailed notes for planning for next year.

Knowing hybrid characteristics means you have the opportunity to strategically place hybrids on specific fields so you can potentially save inputs and have confidence in the seed decision you make.

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Spell Check

Me maize
Dert, AK
7/15/2015 06:49 PM

  The worst articule ever

Wood River, NE
7/15/2015 09:57 PM

  What is the advantage of having leaves intercept water? Water enters through the roots.

Bates City, MO
7/15/2015 09:04 PM

  In my work in the seed sales industry, research plots are essential to give the farmer the best seed for the land. Good work explaining the benefit of this practice.


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