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MATURE BUT WET: Corn from a 112-day hybrid planted June 1 was harvested Oct. 23. Moisture content was 24%, but the hybrid yielded over 200 bushels per acre.

Think twice before switching to hybrids outside your area

Changing to hybrid maturities earlier than your planting zone could cut profits.

Here’s hoping a growing season like 2019 doesn’t return in 2020 — or forever. But there will be seasons that are wetter than you’d like, and you may find yourself thinking about whether you should switch to earlier corn hybrids.

In fact, several agronomists and even ag economists suggest thinking through that scenario for 2020, and for every year. They advise doing this well in advance of planting. They reason that you’re more likely to make the decision based on sound science and past results from your area instead of on raw emotion as you’re watching it rain.

“We had lots of customers asking that question during the planting season as it got later and later,” says Jim Schwartz, Practical Farm Research coordinator and agronomist for Beck’s. “That prompted us to set up a simple test in our PFR study to see what happened if we simulated switching from a full-season hybrid for the area to earlier, adapted hybrids. We also included a very early hybrid in a maturity range that wouldn’t be recommended for that area.”

Schwartz says they included the super-early hybrid because in the heat of the moment, some farmers believed they would be better off planting something they were sure could beat frost. What they tended to forget was yield potential, he notes.

So, what did Beck’s learn? “We confirmed what we expected,” he says. “As long as we stayed with hybrids that were still recommended for the area, there wasn’t much different in net return. But if we went to a hybrid so early it wouldn’t be recommended in that area, profit potential fell dramatically.”

Closer look

This is only a one-year study, repeated at Atlanta, Ind., and near Springfield, Ohio. To calculate net return after drying costs, Beck’s assumed $4.04 per bushel for corn and a 3-cent cost per point of moisture for drying above 15.5%. Net return for the 112-, 108- and 105-day hybrids was $666.47, $648.11 and $662.11, respectively.

“Those are all pretty close,” Schwartz observes. “But the 96-day hybrid not recommended at these locations came in at $583.91 per acre. That’s a big difference from the other three hybrids.”

The 112-day hybrid average yield was highest, at 173.7 bushels per acre, but it was also wettest, at 21.8% moisture. By contrast, the 96-day hybrid was 2 points drier than anything else in the study, at 17.3%. But yield was nearly 20 bushels below the next closest hybrid, at 147 bushels per acre.

“We’re going to repeat this study in 2020,” Schwartz says. “We want to study things in our PFR program which might answer questions farmers ask. This is certainly one of them.

“So far the bottom line is clear. If faced with delayed planting decisions, switching to an unadapted, earlier-maturing hybrid is a costly strategy.”

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