One hybrid goes in one central fill box to plant twelve rows. A second hybrid goes in the other 12 rows. It’s how the Crop watch farmers planted last year, and it’s how they will plant the Corp Watch field this year. As a matter of fact, this is their standard operating procedure.
Why? They cite two reasons, and Dave Nanda, crops consultant for Seed Consultants, Inc., sees the wisdom in their decision.
1. Spread the pollination risk
Having two hybrids in the same field which truly flower, or pollinate, two to three days apart, means there will be pollen in the field for a longer interval. In case something goes wrong with the pollination process, which would likely be tied to weather, they have at least some ‘insurance’ that pollen still might be in the field when silks come out.
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2. Compare one hybrid against the other
While they have no illusion that this is replicated yield trial data, it does give them a chance to observe different characteristics of each hybrid. And when they run two hybrids side by side over an entire field or more than one field, they get a good feel for how each performs as far as yield, even though it is not a yield trial per se.
The trick is picking the right hybrids to match up with each other. They look for at least three things when they are picking hybrids.
1. Yield, yield and yield!
Say what you want, but when the rubber meets the road, it’s the first thing these farmers look at. What is the yield potential? That includes both in good years and poor years when the weather doesn’t cooperate.
2. The hybrid must stand
Standability is also high on the list. While they intend to harvest in a timely fashion, hybrids need to be able to stand in case weather delays harvest.
3. Look at disease resistance.
They want as much disease resistance as they can get, but it has to be balanced against the first two factors. They also have the option of scouting and making a decision about applying fungicide near pollination on a field-by-field basis if disease appears, as it did in 2015.
As far as matching the hybrids there are at last three more factors to consider, besides having a true difference in flowering time.
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1. Mature at roughly the same time
They don’t want large variations in moisture content if possible. There may be a slight difference since they are selecting hybrids that flower a few days apart. But they want to hold the gap in moisture difference at harvest to a minimum.
2. Have similar plant height
If one hybrid is much taller or shorter than the other, shading could become an issue, even though they plant in blocks of 24 rows across the field. Plant height is one trait they check out before making decisions.
3. Understand true genetics
If the hybrids aren’t from the same company, and sometimes they aren’t, they want to know more about the genetics. They’re looking for some genetic variation. Some companies sell vary similar, if not the same, genetics in certain numbers of hybrids.
DIFFERENCE IN FLOWERING TIME: These were the two hybrids that grew side-by-side in the Crop Watch field in 2015. The one on the left matured at least two days earlier than the one on the right. Notice the difference in silking. Some of the silks in the ear on the right, from a different hybrid, are already turning brown.