We have seen dramatic differences in yield among various seed corn hybrids this fall. We harvest our own side-by-side plots each year. What else do you recommend to take this critical decision to the next level in 2020? T. C. - South Dakota
Seed selection will give you the highest return on your research time this winter. This may or may not have anything to do with how much you spend on seed. Rather, your investment is doing your homework on yields, plant health, stalks, roots, drought and heat tolerance, for your soil type, maturity, and rotational considerations.
It’s relatively easy to scrutinize a few dozen third party area plots and select the most consistent high yielding hybrids. But as most of us learned the hard way, there are potential agronomic shortfalls associated with each of these top yielding hybrids. For example, two of the top yielding and most popular central Midwest hybrids from the two largest seed providers have notably high green snap and pollination root lodging issues. Yes, we can buy wind insurance, but this is a potential APH killer that we do not want to risk on too many acres.
It’s shocking how many large and very intelligent farming operations defer the decision of seed selection to their seed dealers. This makes us cringe because you usually know your soils and risk bearing tolerance much better than anyone else.
We suggest you diversify corn hybrids planted into at least three different major sources of genetics. Regardless of the size of your operation, this rule of thumb can help spread your genetic risk. We’re not recommending planting each on an equal number of acres. Price, performance confidence, and suitability are some of the details that will help you specify exact quantities.
Focus on third party plot data, your own side by side yield results, and lots of homework to make an educated decision.
Unfortunately, the Achilles heel of seed selection is that agronomic ratings can be inconsistent and somewhat deceiving. We’ve got a long list of such lessons we’ve learned in practice.
In one example, we planted a couple “die and dry” high yielding hybrids knowing we were going to harvest them earlier than normal, but then they both died two weeks premature and cost us 40 bu. per acre due to kernel size and test weight. Or, our perennial highest yielding hybrid failed to hold its high output across lesser soil types and got beat by 30 bu. per acre by one more disease defensive. In another case, one of our most reliable hybrids green snapped 50% at pollination.
Mother nature has a way of reminding us she’s in charge by sometimes making even the most well-founded decisions go wrong.