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corn test plot Tom J. Bechman
OBSERVE AND ASK: When you visit a company’s test plots, take advantage of the opportunity. Keep your eyes peeled and ask questions about products that interest you.

7 reasons to visit corn test plots before harvest

Corn Illustrated: Check out seed company demonstration plots with a purpose in mind.

Every year, seed companies showcase their newest and best corn hybrids in demonstration plots to exhibit their products and invite farmers to observe them. They also make their agronomists available to talk not only about their products but also about diseases, insects and how to protect your crops.

There are very few products you use where you get a preview of what’s coming down the pike in your own environment before buying for the following year. However, some farmers are reluctant to visit these plots because they think they will be pressured into buying seed.

Instead, view it as a great opportunity to get to know the area seed dealers and agronomists. Ask them questions. Here are seven reasons to visit company seed plots:

1. Keep up with new genetics. The pace of new hybrid introductions and their trait combinations has become so fast that most hybrids are replaced before they’re 3 years old. The competition among seed companies is intense, and many new hybrid combinations are introduced every year. One of the best ways to keep up with changing genetics is attending seed company field days in your area.

2. Compare new vs. existing genetics. Seed companies plant hybrid demonstration plots that include current hybrids along with newer products that will be available for planting next year. You can compare them in the same plots growing side by side.

3. Examine plant traits. Compare plant and ear height, and determine if they’re too short or too tall for your operation. See how they compare with what you’re currently planting. Are leaves upright or floppy? Would they be suitable for narrow rows or higher populations? Those will likely be more common trends in the future.

4. Evaluate hybrids, hands on. These plots are generally for display and observations, not for yield checks. So, feel free to “kick the tires” and check stalk strength and brace roots. Push and pinch the stalks.

5. Ask about diseases and insects. Check out disease and insect tolerances of hybrids versus diseases and insects prevalent in your area. Ask the agronomist or seed rep about foliar fungicides and when they may be used effectively. Ask about new diseases such as tar spot and bacterial leaf streak, now creeping into Illinois from Iowa. Could either be a problem for your area? Northern corn leaf blight and gray leaf spot can always be a threat. What are the economic thresholds for using fungicide with specific hybrids?

6. Peel husks back. Count kernel rows and number of kernels per row, and try to estimate yield potential based on plant population in that field.

7. Exchange ideas. Field days and organized plot tours are great places to get together with neighbors and discuss what’s working for them. Usually, there’s an opportunity to sit down, relax, ask questions and exchange ideas. Check with your seed rep for plot locations and dates for possible field days or tours. Some companies may do things differently due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but they still want you to visit their plots.

Nanda is director of genetics for Seed Genetics Direct, Jeffersonville, Ohio. Email dave.nanda@gmail.com or call 317-910-9876.

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