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Decide what you need in seed

With so many choices available, it’s tough to imagine not being able to find the hybrid you want with the trait package you need.

If faced with a situation of choosing between a trait package and genetics, seed company representatives agree it’s an easy decision: Go with genetics.

“We have to constantly remind ourselves that all the traits do is protect the inherent yield potential,” says Jason Dodd, Pioneer technical services manager for Illinois and Indiana. “If you make traits the top priority, you could be starting at a disadvantage in terms of yield potential.”

In some instances, growers need to take a hard look at the traits they are paying for, and ask whether or not they really need those traits, Dodd adds.

The backbone of any successful seed company is a solid breeding program. However, discovering a promising inbred doesn’t necessarily mean a traited hybrid offering will become a commercial success.

Key Points

Buy seed, first and foremost, according to its genetics.

Remember, traits protect inherent yield; they will not increase it.

Upgrade seed when you feel local testing is sufficient.


Once Wyffels’ breeding program discovers a promising new line of genetics, the germplasm is sent into a trait development program, explains product development manager Brent Tharp. This process takes time, and there are infrequent situations where certain genetic lines do not accept the trait package.

After successful trait insertion, the hybrid enters Wyffels equivalency testing program. Tharp says this compares the yield potential between the traited and non-GMO hybrids — i.e., the traits cannot cause a yield drag.

If all systems are still go, Wyffels begins research trials with the genetic package, again with both traited and conventional hybrids.

“There have been times when something didn’t perform up to standards in field trials and we had to pull it,” Tharp adds. “It’s not a good feeling, but we stand behind our quality assurance programs. It allows us to be confident when marketing new products to customers.”

When to upgrade

With so many companies racing to improve genetics, it begs the question, “How often should I be upgrading to the latest?”

Dodd says that’s a tough question, and the answer can vary from one year to 10 years, depending on the area. To answer the question for your farm, he recommends focusing on local test results. Once a robust amount of testing has proven a significant upside to switching to a new hybrid, Dodd says pull the trigger.

“The two biggest factors in upgrading are probably agronomics and yield,” he adds. “Many farmers are willing to switch to a hybrid that performs very similarly in terms of yield, but are looking for additional agronomic benefit.”

When it comes to seed buying, Dodd advises clients to stick to three basic tenets. First, focus on the germplasm. Next, before moving to a new hybrid, conduct your due diligence and verify local test results.

Lastly, if you’re not satisfied with the options readily available, Dodd says it may be time to broaden your search.

“There is no one-size-fits-all on traits and genetics,” Dodd adds. “If the company you’ve always been with only has one option for your area, maybe you need to look at a different company’s offerings.”

Lastly, consider moving to a hybrid with fewer agronomic traits, such as stay-green or disease resistance, if the genetics justify the change. In many instances, you can make up the difference with a fungicide application.

This article published in the September, 2011 edition of PRAIRIE FARMER.

All rights reserved. Copyright Farm Progress Cos. 2011.