As combines make their way across corn and soybean fields across Nebraska, many farmers will soon be making their decisions for next year's corn hybrids and soybean varieties. It's one of the key decisions farmers make every year, and buying seed has changed dramatically over the last decade.
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In the latest Nebraska Notebook, we visit with Nathan Mueller, Nebraska Extension cropping systems educator, on some key considerations when buying corn and soybean seed.
"I think the first step is to make sure you're using all the information you have available. It doesn't cost you anything to get this information," Mueller advises.
This includes third-party trial data, like FIRST trial data and nearby university trial data, your own on-farm data, and seed company data and recommendations. "Trust the [seed company] recommendations, but verify," Mueller adds. "Verify the recommendations with what you saw on your farm, with third-party data, and looking at company data to make sure all things match up."
But whether it's corn or soybeans, Mueller says it's a good idea to not put all your eggs in one basket — that is, planting the same hybrid or variety on all your fields. "Because we have both dryland and irrigated in a lot of farms in Nebraska, you're going to need a little bit more diverse set of traits in hybrids or varieties than other parts of the U.S.," he says.
Maturity is another factor, especially in soybeans, he adds. "In 2013, the last two weeks of August, it got really hot and dry, and some of those later-maturing varieties just didn't yield very well. Some of the early-maturing varieties that were setting pods and started filling out seeding in early August did a lot better," Mueller says. "And we know in this area there are some 2.4's that can perform really good in terms of yield, yet there are some 3.4's that can, too."
And the potential return for selecting the right hybrid or variety for the right field — or in some cases, the right acres within a field — can be great, Mueller adds.
"We know the average difference of best-performing and poorest-performing soybean variety in third-party trials is about 15 bushels — and that's just a subset," he says. "Let's say you just draw randomly out of a hat of those varieties. You probably aren't going to get that extreme. But even if it's 8 bushels times our current price, you might be seeing $60 difference in terms of profitability. And the cost between those two units of soybeans may have only been $5."
When it comes to corn, there are huge differences in yield, considering the wide range of trait packages available from one hybrid to another. And the best way to know which hybrid's right for you is using data and knowing your production environment — that is, not just chasing yield.
For that reason, Mueller advises not to just go after the newly released, high-priced hybrid. "Make sure it's performed well, at least with a year's worth of data," he says. "Go ahead and get it though. Get it on a limited basis. Put it in a field with another hybrid you've had good luck with. Then you know there are certain hybrids that based on your farm data, company data, third-party trials, that's really been a consistent hybrid, but probably isn't going to be the most expensive one either."