One of the hottest topics of debate amongst farmers at coffee shops is whether companies will bring out planters that can shift hybrids on the go, allowing you to plant two hybrids in the same pass across a field.
Most farmers think it's coming.
"It will be good because I have different soil types in the same pass," says Jerome Tschetter, who farms near Sioux Falls, S.D. "But I think we only need two choices. I can't see the need for switching to more than two hybrids in a single pass."
One reason he and other farmers feel that way is because they believe it would become difficult to know how to match up hybrids with soils that precisely. If there are two distinct soil types and two hybrids suited to those types, that's one thing. Going beyond two is another thing.
Dave Nanda, a plant breeder and current director of genetics and technology for Seed Consultants, Inc., still isn't convinced a farmer needs more than one hybrid. He will lay out his argument for why he doesn't feel agriculture is ready for switching hybrids on the go in the August issue of Indiana Prairie Farmer.
"Most seed companies have information on how hybrids perform under certain conditions, but so many other factors affect hybrid performance, including the environment, even the micro-climate around the plant," Nanda says. "I'm not sure companies can say with confidence for every hybrid where it should be placed in such a system."
The other problems are the physical aspects of making such a system work, Nanda says. The two hybrids would have to be of about the same maturity, or it could create a harvesting nightmare and a tough decision on when to start harvesting. They also need to be about the same height or shading issues could occur with the shorter hybrid.