University of Wisconsin agronomist Joe Lauer says don’t forget the basics when it comes to ordering seed corn. He stresses the need to “choose hybrids wisely by using comparative yield performance data.” Lauer offers these recommendations:
- Base any decision on how a hybrid performed in multiple locations. Your farm is not the same, and corn will not yield the same throughout a field and in every field, so make your decision on multiple yield trials. Give a preference to the trials nearest your farm. An important factor is to compare hybrids with similar maturities and what their moisture content is on the maturity date. If basing a decision on a single plot, even on your farm, measure factors other than yield, such as test weight, dry-down rate, grain quality, and ease of harvest.
- What criteria should be on your checklist? Separate your lists for grain and silage, even though insect and disease resistance will be on both, as will plant lodging and moisture for both grain and forage. Otherwise, check yield and grain quality if being harvested for grain, and check forage quality and forage moisture if being ensiled.
- Evaluate the consistency of performance in various hybrids by checking yields across a broad spectrum of environmental challenges. But just looking at the local results, they may not have replicated the drought stress that hurt the yield from that hybrid in the next state over.
- If trait options are making you dizzy, remember that traits do not increase yield, but only protect yield. If you need a trait that protects from a particular challenge, such as European corn borer, purchase that trait. If ECB has not shown up in your state for a decade, that trait may be superfluous. If you have a very bad rootworm problem, a Bt gene to fight rootworms may be a trait you want to have. Some companies have promoted bundling all traits “just in case,” but Lauer says futures years will bring unbundling and more a la carte ordering.
- Transgenic traits will rank at the top and bottom of every trial, says Lauer and it may not be yield performing. He says consider past performance of individual hybrids over a wide range of locations and climatic conditions.
- Price is a significant issue, since some transgenic hybrids will cost $250 per bag or more, so compare the difference between any two hybrids. If you have to pay much more for one hybrid, it may be hard for it to produce a yield that will cover the higher cost. Lauer offers a seed cost calculator.
(Source: Stu Ellis, University to Illinois)