Nielsen: Yield consistency is key when choosing corn hybrids

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WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. - Corn farmers will soon start shopping for hybrids for the 2014 crop and according to a Purdue Extension agronomist, the number one factor they need to consider is yield consistency.

Each year, seed companies and land grant universities, such as Purdue, conduct a series of seed research trials to gauge the yield success of different hybrids in a variety of locations and conditions. The data can help growers determine which hybrids are likely to perform best in a number of scenarios.

"Documented consistency in yield performance is still the key to success in selecting hybrids that will perform well in your farming operation," Bob Nielsen said. "When you are pressured to choose this hybrid or that one because the sales rep assures you it will perform well, don't hesitate to ask for the performance data that backs up the recommendation."

In years past, growers didn't need to lock in seed choices until January or February of the planting year, but recent competition has caused a need to make the decision in the fall. That scenario means neither seed company or university research trial data from the current year is available. But according to Nielsen, data from previous years will still give growers insight on most hybrids.

"Except for the newest hybrids, performance data from the previous year is useful for identifying consistent performers for your operation next year," he said. "Seek out summaries over many locations and avoid concentrating on single-site results."

Trials that evaluate hybrids in a variety of locations can assess yield performance under different types of weather patterns. This is important because, according to Nielsen, weather variability influences hybrid performance more than any other variable.

"If a hybrid performs consistently well over many sites, then it likely will perform well on your farm in the future," he said.

In addition to looking at how an individual hybrid yields, growers need to consider the yield data in comparison with a series of similar, competing hybrids. Once a group of consistently high-yielding hybrids has been identified, growers can filter them down further for traits that best suit a specific farm.

Field history and identifying any known disease or insect problems can help farmers select the appropriate traits.

For example, gray leaf spot and northern corn leaf blight are diseases that showed up in some Indiana fields this year. Corn hybrids are available with resistance to either of these diseases.

With that said, Nielsen cautioned growers against becoming overwhelmed by the variety of transgenic, or biotech, traits available to them.

"Do not allow yourself to be distracted by the maze of 'flavors' of transgenic traits available in the marketplace today," he said. "If a sales rep tells you that the latest, greatest 'flavor' of a transgenic trait package is the next best thing to sliced bread, demand to see the evidence that it is consistently superior to other available hybrids."

Nielsen offers more information about choosing the right hybrid in an article on Purdue Extension's Chat 'N Chew Café, titled "Hybrid Selection: Where's the Beef?" Included in the article is a list of corn variety testing programs.



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