If you haven't heard something like the following already, you might be living under a rock. Or maybe you've already locked in your seed purchases and are just tuning out all the commercial hype. "Trait XYZ hybrids are 15 bushel beer than Trait ABC hybrids. Our trial with three hybrids each proves it."
The company making the claim may even have pretty charts and graphics to back up their claim. And they may really have seen the data they're reporting for the study that they did. But Dave Nanda, a crops consultant for the Indiana Prairie Farmer Farm Progress Corn Illustrated project, and president of Bird Hybrids LLC, Tiffin, Ohio, says you need to dig deeper and ask questions before you accept the idea they're promoting as fact.
The problem, Nanda says, is in which hybrids they choose to compare. Just because three hybrids with certain traits outperform another three hybrids with a different set of competing traits doesn't mean that the traits in the first hybrid set are the reason for the superior performance.
"What some people tend to forget is genetics," Nanda says. "It may come down to the genetics behind each set of three hybrids, not the traits themselves." Nanda is a firm believer that traits don't influence yields in the same way that genetics do. Without good genetics he believes that traits won't succeed any better than any other hybrid offering.
To prove his point, Nanda asks you to consider this example. Suppose one company takes their best three hybrids as far as yield. They put the version of those hybrids with traits in a plot. Then they pick hybrids from the competing trait technology to put in the plot. However, the genetics behind that set of hybrids is not as good, and is not competitive against the best genetics of that trait which might be available elsewhere in the market. The comparison is biased right from the start, Nanda contends.
Obviously, many farmers are seeing value from hybrids with traits, especially triple- stacks. The hybrids carry a heftier price tag in the seed bag due to the technology that they contain. But many are good –yielding hybrids. Nanda's point is simply that to make smart decisions, you should pay as much or more attention to the genetics that are in the seed bag you're considering buying as to the trait names that are also on the bag.
All the traits out there won't make a 'dog' hybrid a good yielder, he notes. What most traits today do in corn are help preserve the potential yield that hybrid is capable of, protecting against insects, may be diseases or both. If the best genetics didn't go in the bag in the first place, then the best yields won't come out in the end, no matter how well the traits work and protect corn form insects and diseases.