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Serving: IA

8 tips for picking 2022 corn hybrids

Willie Vogt Corn field
PICKING WINNERS: There are several factors to consider choosing hybrids for 2022. Sorting through key factors early will bring winners to the top of your list.
Corn Source: Picking the winners for 2022 may mean more than looking at your 2021 top-yielders.

As harvest wraps up, thoughts of the 2021 growing season are quickly pushed aside in preparation for the 2022 growing season. Fall fertilizer decisions are being made. And hybrid selection comes quickly to the forefront.

For many, the process begins with crunching the yield numbers to determine which hybrids performed well this past year. Comparisons are being made with local yield trials put out by the seed dealer, cooperative, FFA or Iowa Crop Performance Tests.

Yield performance is the No. 1 criteria for selecting corn hybrids. However, there is a fine line between selecting a hybrid that performed well last year with predicting a hybrid that will perform well next year. Doing this well is key to success. Predicting how a hybrid will perform next year requires looking at more than one year or one location of yield results. You must look at how well a hybrid performs across several years and/or locations. A hybrid that does this will be robust and can perform well in the coming year, too.

Narrowing the list of hybrids requires identifying hybrid characteristics that fit your individual soils and management. These characteristics will have implications on many other management decisions, as well as risk management.

1. Yield and yield consistency. High-yield hybrids have the potential to have high yields every year, while low-yielding hybrids rarely have the potential to be high-yielding. Evaluate hybrids yearly for yield potential since hybrids are typically only on the market for two or three years. Look for hybrids that consistently have a high performance from location to location and year to year.

2. Disease tolerance. Knowing what diseases are common for your area is a key to choosing hybrids with disease tolerance to minimize disease risk. Disease tolerance is especially important for diseases that do not have other viable control options, such as bacteria diseases like Goss’s wilt. Consider management practices that have higher disease risk potential, such as continuous corn where diseases that overwinter in residue are more prevalent, or early planting where cool, wet soils may promote seedling disease. Another consideration is how likely you are to apply a fungicide. If a fungicide is not a likely option, look for hybrid disease packages with above-average disease ratings.

3. Transgenic traits. This option can provide insect protection as well as herbicide resistance. When deciding on transgenic traits, consider whether you need all the traits being offered with the hybrid. Transgenic hybrids have been very successful where insect and herbicide resistance has not become an issue. While insect and herbicide resistance is becoming more of an issue, transgenic traits can still be a powerful management tool if used judiciously across the crop rotation.

4. Early-season vigor and emergence. These characteristics are extremely important to achieve the desired harvest population. A high seedling vigor rating helps manage risks when hybrids are selected months before planting and with the knowledge of what weather conditions will be. Rapid emergence and vigor can minimize disease risk, while uniform emergence is important for high yield potential.

5. Standability and lodging. Often hybrids have ratings to indicate how well a cultivar will be to harvest. This characteristic may be key for fields typically wet in the fall or harvested later in the field order. While some cultivars have better standability than others, weather also greatly influences how well plants will stand after maturity.

6. Greensnap. Weather events, landscape position and plant development stage influence the occurrence of greensnap. Hybrid selection can reduce the severity or occurrence of greensnap when hybrids have been characterized, or past hybrid knowledge can be accounted for. Avoiding more susceptible hybrids is recommended if greensnap is a common occurrence.

7. Grain drydown. The ability of a hybrid to dry down quickly can lead to earlier harvest and/or lower grain drying costs. Choosing hybrids with rapid grain drydown is most important for farm operations with little to no on-farm drying capacity. Using grain drydown ratings can reduce the need for planting an earlier maturity and potentially losing yield potential.

8. Seed costs. Prices have been steadily increasing as seed technology and genetics have improved. Balancing the cost of seed with the yield potential can be tricky. Seed discounts should be considered, but do not compromise cultivar selection to obtain a discount on seed costs.  Limiting the transgenic traits can reduce costs, but there must be consideration of the cost for alternative management strategies in the absence of traits.

Choosing a diverse lineup of corn hybrids is the ultimate risk management strategy. It allows you to take advantage of an opportunity to learn about new hybrids while relying on tried-and-true hybrids. It allows you to manage each field based on the characteristics of the field.

Prioritize yield potential and risk management when choosing hybrids.

Licht is an Iowa State University Extension cropping systems agronomist.

TAGS: Corn
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