Are modern genetics worth the money?

At summer field days and then at Farm Science Review, I had the opportunity to talk with growers about crop prices and how they plan to cut back on costs for 2017. One topic that came up several times was to change their genetics to cheaper hybrids or companies. This thought somewhat concerns me.

I have conducted a number of trials and comparisons over the years and generally have learned that new is better when it comes to choosing a hybrid or variety for yield. One such comparison I have been making over recent years is of a modern hybrid to open pollinated corn varieties. I know this is an extreme comparison but I do actually have some folks tell me they are looking for a modern open pollinated variety so they can produce their own seed. For 2016, I compared a modern hybrid, a modern open pollinated variety and an older open pollinated variety. Reid’s yellow dent is quite old, has a history in Ohio and has played a significant part in modern corn breeding.


Table 1. Yield and lodging results for 2016 corn comparisons near South Charleston, Ohio.


——— Yield in Bu/A ———

 Modern hybridModern OPOld OP


SC11AQ15Trucker’s favorite yellowReid’s yellow dent
18,000 seed/A100N151.148.767.2
18,000 seed/A200N160.941.756.0
36,000 seed/A100N196.033.557.7
36,000 seed/A200N227.132.453.5

Lsd 0.10



— Lodging 1-10 scale (1 standing, 10 flat) —

18,000 seed/A100N1.77.36.0
18,000 seed/A200N1.77.77.3
36,000 seed/A100N1.06.37.7
36,000 seed/A200N1.06.77.3

Lsd 0.10


Typically when I make this comparison between my modern hybrid and Reid’s yellow dent, I have about 100 bushel per acre advantage for the modern hybrid. This year, however, with lodging, insect feeding, disease, and a good growing season for this modern hybrid, the differences were a bit more. I use this information when talking with consumers about the value of modern technology in plant breeding. We can also see the benefit to increasing seeding rates for the modern hybrid. And while something between 100 and 160 N usually tops out for my economic yield, I used 100 N and 200N applications to show potential yield loss from a low versus an adequate to excessive rate.

Lodging had likely the biggest influence on yield, with the open pollinated varieties not standing well compared to the modern hybrid standing quite well. This photo (Figure 1) shows how bad the lodging was. My guess is that plant height led to the lodging — with the modern OP at 12 to 14 feet tall, the older OP maybe 10 to 12 feet tall and the modern hybrid at seven feet.


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One comment

  1. It’s a good reminder of the value of today’s genetics. However an article that would be even more interesting would be comparing the yields and cost per acre of today’s top rated varieties from premier companies ($$$$) with those of similar modern varieties from lesser known companies ($$). That would give us a better view of the sweet spot: maximum yield with lowest input.

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