2011 tough year for hybrid decisions

It only makes sense to base the selection of hybrids and varieties for next year on their performance this year, right? Maybe not.

Ohio State University Extension corn specialist Peter Thomison said the late planting, hot summer, soggy September and delayed harvest combined to make 2011 an odd year.

“This year it as important as ever to choose hybrids that yield consistency across environments,” he said. “Hybrids will perform differently, based on region, soils and environmental conditions, and growers should not rely solely on one hybrid characteristic or transgenic traits to make their product selection.”

This year’s crop experienced water stress on both ends of the spectrum with flooding in the early spring and drought in late summer, which may not lead to a balanced view of hybrid performance, said Bob Nielsen, Purdue University Extension corn specialist.

Nielsen said the top criterion for hybrid selection always is yield potential, but consistency of yield also is important.

“Acceptable hybrids for your farm are those that exhibit high yields over a wide variety of growing conditions,” Nielsen said. “The hybrid doesn’t have to win every trial, but it should be near the top of all of them.”

Nielson said growers also should consider tolerance to stresses such as disease, drought and excess water. Seed companies typically will rate hybrids for resistance to gray leaf spot and northern corn leaf blight.  Seed companies also publish variety trial information, and there also are independent research companies, including the Farmer’s Independent Research of Seed Technologies, or FIRST trials.

Once growers have looked at hybrid data, they will need to contact their seed representatives soon, Nielsen said. With this year’s crop stresses, seed companies may be short of popular varieties.

“Seed companies suffered the same problems we all did,” Nielsen said. “When farmers start to get serious about ordering seeds for next year, they may be in short supply.”

Companies often will provide a rating on early-season vigor, or how readily a stand will establish in cool or wet conditions. As always, the soil and location of the field determines many of the grower’s needs, he said.

In addition to yield performance, consistency, disease and pest resistance, Nielsen said growers should consider personal preferences based on their equipment and storage needs. Minor traits that farmers might consider include the strength of ear-to-stalk attachment and shelling ease during harvest.

Thomison also offers the following tips may help growers when making hybrid selection decisions:

• Select hybrids with maturity ratings appropriate for a geographic area. “Corn for grain should reach physiological maturity or “black layer” one to two weeks before the first killing frost in the fall,” said Thomison. Use days-to-maturity, growing degree-day (GDD) ratings, and harvest grain moisture data from performance trials to determine differences in hybrid maturity.

• Choose hybrids that have produced consistently high yields across a number of locations. “Choosing a hybrid simply because it’s a “triple stack” or “quad stack” or possesses appealing cosmetic traits, like “flex” ears, will not ensure high yields,” said Thomison. “Instead, look for yield consistency across environments. Hybrids will perform differently, based on region, soils and environmental conditions, and growers should not rely solely on one hybrid characteristic or transgenic traits to make their product selection.”

• Plant hybrids with good standability to minimize stalk lodging. This is particularly important in areas where stalk rots are perennial problems, or where field drying is anticipated.

• Select hybrids with resistance and/or tolerance to stalk rots, foliar diseases, and ear rots.

• Never purchase a hybrid without consulting performance data. “Results of state, company, and county replicated hybrid performance trials should be reviewed before purchasing hybrids,” said Thomison. “Because weather conditions are unpredictable, the most reliable way to select superior hybrids is to consider performance during the last year and the previous year over as wide a range of locations and climatic conditions as possible.” If limited to single year data, it’s important to try to evaluate a hybrid’s performance across a range of different growing conditions.


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