Extensive testing yields consistent products

Seed Consultant Inc. (SCI) planted 90,000 replicated yield plots during the 2010 growing season, including 56 different locations for corn, 40 for soybeans and 11 for wheat throughout the Eastern Corn Belt.

The extensive testing program helps growers select the best genetics for the East’s unique environment — cooler, wetter soils and higher disease pressure.

“By planting a large number of plots we can position the hybrid or variety best suited for the farmers’ particular soils,” said Chris Jeffries, SCI president. “Some companies may have more total rows, but we have more locations. The key is selecting for our customer base.”

SCI customers Aaron Freyenberger and his dad, Keith, depend on SCI’s research to select seed for their northwest Indiana farm.

“It’s local. I can find the best varieties for my soil types,” Aaron said.

The soil types the Freyenbergers farm near Kouts range from clay hills to sand.

In 2010 the Freyenbergers planted SC 1107(non-GMO) on the clay hills. Averaging 223 bushels per acre, the hybrid had excellent stalk quality and test weight.

“The yellow clay we have can be tough soil to farm, but this variety looked great all year,” Aaron said.

Another hybrid, SCS 10HQ78 planted on the non-irrigated black sand, had great stalk quality, yielded 221 bushels per area and took the heat and stress well, Aaron reports.

For a regional company like Seed Consultants, planting multi locations from Michigan to North Carolina is a major undertaking. The concept is borrowed from renowned seedsman, Cecil Robinson of Robinson Hybrids, one of the first companies to test and evaluate hybrids across multiple soil types, management practices, weather and disease environments. Like Robinson Hybrids, SCI concentrates on testing where the seed is sold.

The concept enables growers to choose seed suited for their soil and conditions. A particular location might have more pressure from northern corn leaf blight, gray leaf spot or drought.

“We test in all these different environments,” Jeffries said.

SCI’s Director of Replicated Research Mike Earley ensures 42 kernels of each hybrid or variety tested are placed into the 180,000 envelopes each year. The meticulous process pays.

“We can position hybrids by the field situation so we can do a better job for the farmers. We’re able to become more of a consultant than a salesman,” Earley said.

To figure out the best seed for your farm, evaluate the research results thoroughly. Seed Consultants’ specialists offer the five suggestions:

1. Read the summaries to find the number of replications, rainfall, research practices, etc.

2. Choose genetics yielding in the top 25% and not the No. 1 spot. “The top hybrids this year may not be the top hybrids next year,” Jeffries said.

3. Compare the hybrid’s and variety’s performance over more than one year. The hybrid in first place this year may have just been at the right place at the right time. See how the seed performed last year or in another location.

4. Check for the reliability of the tests. Look for a coefficient of variance less than 10. The lower the ratio, the better the risk-returns tradeoff.

5. Find out the number of replications. Look for a minimum of 10. SCI may have as many as 100 replications in their tests, plus 10 to 20 replications from 3rd party testing. “We don’t want our customers to be the guinea pigs for us and risk their crops,” said Dave Nanda, SCI’s Director of Genetics and Technology.

The take home message is, the greater the number of replications, the higher the reliability of the data.

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