Harvest Observations From the Combine

Between the Fencerows

We're scrutinizing hybrids and varieties for 2014

Published on: October 23, 2013

We have entered a more typical fall pattern, with cooler, crisper weather. Rainy days are common and we still have about 15-20% of our soybeans to harvest. Late maturity bean yields held up better than expected. 

As far as corn, we've just gotten a good start. Yields have been variable. I think if honesty prevails over the coffee shop talk, you would find there are a few really good yields out there, and a lot of fields are as expected; average to above average. Generally, test weight is low.  Hybrids we would usually expect to be 60-62 pounds are coming in at 58-59 pounds.  I've heard some reports of 49 and 50 pound corn. 

Sub-par grain quality can lead to spoilage during storage and price reductions at the elevators.  Poorly drained areas were hurt by the wet spring.  Shallow soils were hurt by the dry August.  Simply, the best corn is on the best fields.

Were scrutinizing hybrids and varieties for 2014
We're scrutinizing hybrids and varieties for 2014

As we go through harvest, we constantly scrutinize hybrids and varieties.  Because of the specialty and identity preserved soybeans we grow, there were few opportunities for side by sides.  (We kept entire fields the same variety, and cleaned out the planter between fields).  We did not have a soybean plot this year. 

Comparisons come from relative factors such as yield relative to field history or similar farms.

In contrast, we have many side-by-sides in corn fields.  Sometimes we do the comparison with the combine yield monitor.  However, being volume based it can have a bias that favors lighter test weight corn. 

Usually, we will use the scale on the grain cart if we want a true comparison.  Sometimes we opt to have a dealer bring the weigh wagon.  We have yet to run our plot.

Last week, a friend sent me a screen shot of their yield monitor.  It was a summary of three hybrids in the field.  It showed the weighted average, dry-land average, and irrigated average of each hybrid.  There was 11 bushel difference between the top and bottom. 

When digging deeper into the numbers, it revealed the hybrid that was on top performed both in the irrigated and dry-land scenarios. I would call that corn a 'performer'.  The hybrid that came in second I would classify as a 'steady Eddie', it didn't ring any bells under irrigation, but it held together pretty well on dry land. The third place hybrid would be more of a 'race horse' - it did well under irrigation, but couldn't handle the stresses of dry land.  This kind of information helps us place hybrids on the right soils and in the right fields next year.  Maybe we should start tracking hybrids better so we can generate data like this.

Refuge-In-Bag Mystery

The most interesting thing we've noticed about this year's crop is the RIB (refuge in bag) corn.  This is where 90 or 95% of the corn has insect resistant traits and the balance is 'refuge.'  During the summer in some fields it became quite apparent which plants came from the refuge seeds.  They were taller than the rest of the field.  A quick count verified the refuge percentage was accurate.  (I've noticed it may also be verified at harvest by different colored cobs.) 

When pulling ears (doing yield checks) this summer we noted that the refuge ears seemed larger.  We decided to do an experiment at harvest.  This week, I went out and randomly selected refuge plants.  I then pulled the ears of those plants and the plant on either side.  I took these to the weigh house where I hand shelled, weighed, and tested them.  In two fields, the refuge crop outweighed the traited crop  by 17 to 24%.  The refuge has also been drier and heavier. 

This is significant enough to continue this little experiment through the rest of the fall.  The question that is left to be answered is:  Why?