Dakota Farmer

Shooting for 300-plus-bushel corn?

Hybrid selection plays a key role in achieving high-yield corn.

Sarah McNaughton

December 8, 2022

3 Min Read
young corn plants in field
TOP-YIELDING CROP: South Dakota State University Extension Agronomist Jonathan Kleinjan says proper consideration of corn hybrids helps growers achieve a high-quality, high-yield crop.Andy Sacks/Getty Images

Every farm wants to grow a corn crop with the highest yield and quality. Hybrid selection plays a key role in a farm’s strategy to achieve 300-plus bushels per acre in yield.

“Hybrid selection is one of the most important management decisions made by a corn producer, because the genetic yield potential of different hybrids directly impacts yield and input costs,” says Jonathan Kleinjan, South Dakota State University Extension agronomist.

With many factors to consider such as yield potential, maturity rating, drought resistance, nutrient efficiency and pest resistance, where should you start?

Obtaining reliable information from state and regional testing programs, on-farm research, independent agronomists and company trials can help with the selection process.

The three most important considerations for selecting corn hybrids are yield, yield and yield. “A hybrid with poor yield potential cannot be made into a good hybrid with better management,” Kleinjan says.

A 2013 corn trial of hybrids with a 100-day relative maturity rating or less showed that there was a 35-bushel-per-acre yield difference seen between the highest- and lowest-yielding crop. That difference can really add up across a field.

Utilizing performance data

When looking at hybrid performance trials, a local source such as a land-grant university should be evaluated to determine performance expectations on your farm. For South Dakota farmers, information is available from the SDSU Extension Crop Performance Testing Program.

When reviewing these trial and yield results, Kleinjan says, “It’s important to note not only the yield performance of a hybrid but also the least significant difference of the hybrid yield averages.”

This least significant difference is used to determine the way hybrids are statistically different from one another.

Coefficient of variation is another important statistic to consider with hybrid selection.

“This statistic is 100 times the standard deviation divided by the main value for the trait of interest, such as yield or test weight,” Kleinjan says. “The CV is an indicator of the repeatability and reliability of the measurements. The lower the CV the better.”

Genetically modified traits in some corn hybrids can be used to minimize pest damage. “GM corn hybrids provide increased crop resistance to insects and disease, increased drought tolerance, and tolerance to broad-spectrum herbicides,” he says.

Obtain information about GM seed corn traits from seed suppliers to determine how they may fit into your farm. “Technology costs, the marketability of the crop, and the risk of developing weed or insect pest resistance should be considered when planting a GM crop,” Kleinjan says.

Selecting for your farm’s conditions

Reviewing yield data from studies with similar growing conditions to your farm can help select the best hybrid. Where farms have drier conditions, a defensive hybrid may be selected. For those areas of high-yield potential, racehorse hybrids could be the best choice.

Even across the same state, there can be wide variability of average precipitation and growing degree days to consider. This type of variability means that the value of each testing site’s data decreases the farther it is from your farm.

“Selecting a genetically diverse lineup of locally adapted hybrids that vary in maturity and agronomic strengths can help growers lower their risk of crop loss,” he says. “Consulting with seed experts in your area to understand the agronomic characteristics of locally adapted hybrids is a good starting point.”

SDSU Extension contributed to this article.

About the Author(s)

Sarah McNaughton

Editor, Dakota Farmer, Farm Progress

Sarah McNaughton is a graduate of North Dakota State University, with a bachelor’s degree in agriculture communications, along with minors in animal science and Extension education. She is working on completing her master’s degree in Extension education and youth development, also at NDSU. In her undergraduate program, she discovered a love for the agriculture industry and the people who work in it through her courses and involvement in professional and student organizations.

After graduating college, Sarah worked at KFGO Radio out of Fargo, N.D., as a farm and ranch reporter. She covered agriculture and agribusiness news for North Dakota, South Dakota and Minnesota. Most recently she was a 4-H Extension agent in Cass County, N.D., teaching, coordinating and facilitating youth programming in various project areas.

She is involved in agriculture in both her professional and personal life, serving on the executive board for North Dakota Agri-Women, and as a member in American Agri-Women, Sigma Alpha Professional Agriculture Sorority Alumni and Professional Women in Agri-business. As a life-long 4-H’er, she is a regular volunteer for North Dakota 4-H programs and events.

In her free time, she is an avid backpacker and hiker, enjoys running with her cattle dog Ripley, and can be found most summer weekends at rodeos around the Midwest.

Sarah is originally from Grand Forks, N.D., and currently resides in Fargo.

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