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Think Through Hybrid Switches Carefully Before Exchanging Corn

Think Through Hybrid Switches Carefully Before Exchanging Corn
Witching hour approaches for corn that isn't planted yet.

When you find yourself in a season like this one, it's likely you've picked out a date in your own mind which is the last day you will plant corn before switching to soybeans. That may depend upon what you've already applied to the field, and what predictions for future are like.

You also probably have been in touch with your seedsman about switching hybrids to an earlier hybrid if you're going to still be planting corn. Some experts suggest not getting excited about switching until June 5, unless you have a hybrid that was already pushing the limits of your area as far as days to maturity are concerned.

Bill Cobbler, sales manager with Stewart Seeds, Greensburg, says that farmers ought to think through the economics before they switch to earlier hybrids. You could wind up with corn that dries up earlier in the fall, but which doesn't net you as much money because the yield potential is lower in the first place.

Here's his example. Suppose hybrid A is a 100 day hybrid. Even planting by June 5, yield potential is 180 bushels per acre. "We're talking about a good hybrid," he notes. But since you get nervous because it was 110 days to maturity, you ask if he has another one that would mature faster.

"Say we could get you a 103-day hybrid," he says. "But from past experience, we know that planting that hybrid on June 5 would have a lower yield potential, says 160 bushels per acre. That assumes that you get a reasonably good season.

So you've switched corn to a hybrid known to produce 20 bushels per acre less, but which has better potential of beating frost and drying down sooner during the fall.

On one hand, say corn is $7 per bushel. So you are giving up the potential of 20 bushels per acre at $7 per bushel equals $140 dollars per acre. Even at $5 per bushel corn, you could be giving up $100 per acre.

The question is how much extra will you spend drying the wetter corn. If the season is decent form here on out and it's a normal or later frost, and even if the corn now in your shed is 5 points wetter, and it costs you 20 cents per bushel to dry the corn, you've still got more income per acre.

Use the $5 per bushel figure. If it costs 20 cents per bushel to dry the extra 20 bushels, that $4 more per acre. So know you've got the potential for $96 per acre to the good staying with the corn you have.

The only way this scenario goes south is if it's a cool summer and an early-frost, Cobbler acknowledges. If you're staring at 35 to 40% corn instead of 20 to 25% if you had switched, then you could have a major problem related more to inconvenience of handling and working with a wet, bulky problem rather then economics.

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