Sponsored By
American Agriculturist Logo

North Country trials compare grain, silage corn hybrids

Silage yields averaged 18.5 tons in short-season plots and 28.5 tons in longer-season plots.

May 28, 2019

6 Min Read
Close-up of edge of corn field
EVALUATING CORN: Dozens of corn varieties have been evaluated for performance on northern New York farms as part of the Commercial Corn Silage Hybrid Trials.

Forty-eight corn silage and grain varieties were evaluated for performance in northern New York last year.

The trials evaluated yield, moisture level and standability as well as innovative forage quality evaluation techniques for digestibility and milk production.

About 65% of the approximately 144,000 acres of corn grown each year across the six northernmost counties of New York are harvested as silage with 35% harvested as grain.

The program, officially called the Commercial Corn Silage Hybrid Trials, was relaunched in 2016. The number of hybrid entries grew in 2017 and included collaborative sites in Vermont.

For 2018, varieties were tested at three different locations: Greenwood Dairy in Madrid, N.Y.; the William H. Miner Agricultural Research Institute in Chazy, N.Y.; and the Cornell University Agricultural Experiment Station at the Willsboro Research Farm, N.Y.

Forage data was collected and analyzed by the field and laboratory research team that included Cornell faculty, field technicians and Extension staff working in cooperation with the three sites.

"As the seed industry introduces new corn hybrids to the market, field evaluation under regional growing conditions is critical to assist growers in selecting the hybrids best-suited to their farm," says Joseph Lawrence, project co-leader and Cornell Pro-Dairy Extension associate.

Evaluation methods

Silage corn hybrids were planted at Willsboro Research Farm, 80- to 95-day hybrids, and at Greenwood Farm in Madrid, 96- to 110-day hybrids. Grain hybrid trials, 79- to 89-day hybrids, were planted at both the Greenwood Farm and at the W.H. Miner Institute.

Hybrid entries were solicited from seed companies doing business in New York and the Northeast. Hybrids were machine-planted in three replications at each site using a randomized complete block design. Individual plots consisted of two rows of grain or four rows of silage 17.5 feet long at 30-inch spacing. Plantings were done May 8-9, 2018, in Madrid for silage and grain; May 24, 2018, in Willsboro for silage; and May 30, 2018, in Chazy for grain only. Silage hybrids were planted at 34,000 plants per acre while grain hybrids were over-planted and thinned to 30,000 plants per acre. The hybrids were evaluated in June for emergence.

For both silage trials, the center two rows were harvested with a two-row plot harvester equipped with a weighing system and timed to come as close to 35% whole-plant dry matter as possible. The Willsboro trial was harvested Sept. 14 averaging 35% dry matter while the Madrid trial was harvested Sept. 12 averaging 32.9% dry matter.

Forage samples from each plot were sent to Cumberland Valley Analytical Laboratory for NIR analysis to determine crude protein, starch, lignin, ash, total fatty acids, ash-corrected neutral detergent fiber, neutral detergent fiber, digestibility and undigested neutral detergent fiber.  

Grain plots at Madrid were harvested Oct. 26 using a combine equipped with weigh buckets and a moisture meter. Harvest was done by hand in Chazy on Oct. 26.

Immediately before harvest, the number of stalks broken, or lodged, below the ear were counted and expressed as a portion of the total number of plants in the plot — percentage stalk lodging. Plants leaning over from the base at more than a 45-degree angle were counted as root-lodged and expressed as a proportion of the total number of plants — percentage root lodging.

Yield data from both sites included grain weight per plot and grain moisture at harvest. Yields were calculated at 15.5% grain moisture and used to calculate yield-to-moisture ratio for each hybrid. Y:M ratio measures hybrid efficiency in producing high yield under short-season conditions. Hybrids that show high yields and earlier maturity — lower grain moistures — have higher Y:M ratios.

The results

Crop performance in 2018 was generally good. Early season weather was dryer than normal at most sites, leading to concerns about drought stress. However, rainfall returned to normal around flowering time at most locations, which led to good crop performance through pollination and grain fill.

Silage yields in Willsboro averaged 18.4 tons per acre for the 80- to 95-day hybrids tested. Yield differences were not significant with individual hybrids ranging only from 16.5 to 20.4 tons per acre. Variation in dry matter percent was significant — range was 32.2% to 38.5% — but the trial mean was 35.0%, exactly what our target was for harvest timing.

Variation was significant for many quality parameters, too, but not for most of the NDF-related parameters. There was significant variation in predictions for dry matter intake and allowable milk yield, with the latter ranging from 103 to almost 125 pounds a day. Predicted milk did vary significantly among the hybrids, but none were significantly higher than the trial mean for predicted milk.

In Madrid, the data showed significant variation for all traits measured. The trial had excellent yield —average 28.5 tons per acre with individual hybrids as high as 31.5 tons per acre. Overall mean dry matter was 32.9%, close to our target for harvest timing.

The hybrids with earlier relative maturity values had a bit higher dry matter, and those in the later relative maturity group had a bit lower dry matter at harvest.

Dan and Andrew Reed check the corn crop at Reedhaven Farm in Adams Center, N.Y.
CHECKING PROGRESS: Dan and Andrew Reed check the corn crop at Reedhaven Farm in Adams Center, N.Y. Forty-eight grain and silage hybrids were evaluated for performance in the North Country.

In addition to analyzing fiber digestibility, these trials will allow for the further study of seven apparent interactions between the growing environment and fiber digestibility of the corn plant. Ongoing evaluation of hybrids with the Cornell Net Carbohydrate and Protein Synthesis model, where each hybrid in the testing program is entered into a standardized lactating cow feed ration, allows for the evaluation of fiber digestibility and other key forage quality parameters on expected animal performance with a diet containing that hybrid.

When it comes to the grain, the Chazy and Madrid plots were both excellent and had very good coefficients of variation for yield and grain moisture, indicating high data quality from both sites.

Both yield and grain moisture varied significantly between locations and among hybrids.

Conditions at Chazy were at or above average for growing degree days and below average for precipitation every month from May through September. Overall precipitation for the growing season was only 61% of long-term average.

In Madrid, growing degree days were a bit above average for several months, but conditions were cooler than normal in June and October, and precipitation was below long-term averages only in June and July. Overall precipitation in Madrid was 85% of long-term average values.

Yield averaged up to 240 bushels per acre while grain moisture showed a big variation from 17.7% to 26%. As expected, later-maturity hybrids tended to have higher yield potential as they can take advantage of more growing degree days, especially in a season where heat accumulation tends to be above average.

Both sites had statistically significant variation for grain yield and grain moisture at harvest. The yield-to-moisture ratio (Y:M) is a good guide to choosing hybrids with excellent yield potential and appropriate maturity. Based on this ratio, a number of earlier-maturing hybrids stood out at Chazy, where warm and dry conditions may have favored hybrids that could fill grain quickly with whatever soil moisture was available.

Longer-season hybrids tended to have the best Y:M ratios at Madrid, where precipitation was more abundant throughout the season and temperatures were more typical.

For more information and for full results, go to the Northern New York Agricultural Development Program’s website at nnyagdev.org.

Source: Northern New York Agricultural Development Program, which is solely responsible for the information provided and is wholly owned by the source. Informa Business Media and all its subsidiaries are not responsible for any of the content contained in this information asset.

Subscribe to receive top agriculture news
Be informed daily with these free e-newsletters

You May Also Like