The old question, "What's more important, genetics or environment?" was answered during the last four years. It is the environment. Plant breeders have made a lot of improvements in crop varieties but if the environment isn't favorable, even the best genetics cannot perform.
Mother Nature keeps on reminding us that she is the real boss! You know every year is different. This year she decided to challenge us with cool and wet weather blended with leaf diseases. What kind of weather will we have in 2016?
That all plays into selecting hybrids for next year. Nanda laid out a checklist of 15 items to ask about a hybrid in an earlier post. Here is the second half of that comprehensive list.
1. Do you want race horse or work horse hybrids? Which are best suited to your soils?
2. Drought, heat and stress tolerance: Are drought tolerant hybrids like Artesian or AQUAmax available?
3. Emergence and early seedling vigor: Both are key to getting good stand establishment
4. Root system of hybrid: What does it look like below ground?
5. Brace roots and root strength: How is the plant's anchoring system above ground?
6. Stalk strength and standability: You have a good chance to assess these now.
7. Leaf Type: Upright or floppy? Which do you prefer?
8. Plant and ear height: Are tall plants always preferred?
9. Tassel size and number of branches: Some hybrids put out fewer branches and save more energy for other uses
10. Growing degree days to pollen shed and silk emergence: Do you know when the hybrid you're evaluating will pollinate?
11. Girthy or flex ears: Which one will work better on your soil types?
12. Late season health and stay-green power: How does each hybrid stack up?
13. Ear attachment and retention: Some hybrids bend over which aids drying- others retain water in the shank and husk area.
14. Test weight: How does the hybrid compare on test weight? Realize there is often little correlation between test weight and yield.
15. Harvestability: How soon can you harvest? How easy are kernels to remove form the cob?
Selecting the right hybrids for your farm is still one of the most important decisions you will make for your operations. Use this checklist to check out potential hybrids carefully.
Nanda is a consultant for Seed Consultants, Inc. He writes from Indianapolis.