In the old days, a seed corn company gave you a notebook so small it fit in your shirt pocket, and said that was their product guide. There would be glowing comments about each product, and maybe some information and general statements on disease tolerance and maturity. There might even be a few pages at the end for notes.
Those are collector's items today for the most part. More companies are providing many more details, including how hybrids rate in their line-up on a number of issues, not just disease tolerance. And they specify traits and other facts you need to know if you are seriously considering a hybrid.
Some companies have even gone to the extreme of listing as much information as possible on the plot sign at their field shows. Instead of just a company name and number, you get tables and charts about the hybrid's traits. You may even get a map of where the hybrid is recommended.
The plot sign in the picture was posted on each hybrid and each variety at Beck's fall field show at Atlanta earlier this fall. You can answer several questions for yourself before you need help from a seed rep. Kevin Cavanaugh, director of research at Beck's, believes in putting as much information out there as possible.
Even with the sign you may still have a few questions. For example, when it comes to disease ratings, what do the numbers mean? Who rates the hybrids, and on what scale? Is the system unique to the company. In many cases it is a unique system. Rating systems for disease and maturity aren't standardized across the industry.
Comments on the description may also spur other questions. It all starts with letting customers know as much information that is pertinent about a hybrid as possible up front, Cavanaugh says.