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Yield, performance help pick seed

The lessons learned this past growing season are good reminders as growers develop plans for this upcoming spring. For some, seed purchase decisions are already made, but according to some agronomists and seed sales representatives, purchase decisions were running in delayed mode at the end of 2009.

The lessons learned from the 2009 corn crop vary depending on local conditions. Statewide, growing degree accumulation was significantly below normal, and the fall harvest conditions tended to be challenging with a wet October and abnormally higher grain moisture levels. In general, corn growers were harvesting later and at higher moisture levels, and a fair amount of corn went unharvested due to snowstorms in December. The good news is that in general, excellent yields were observed.

These lessons can be used in making profitable corn management decisions for 2010. The first decision is selecting corn hybrids, and I would suggest a minimum of four decision resources: the University of Wisconsin Corn Hybrid Performance Trial Results, UW Crop Seed Price Calculator, seed company hybrid trial results and, of course, your on-farm yields and other observations.

The UW Corn Hybrid Performance Trial Results are available in print or on the Corn Agronomy Web site. This independent trial makes objective comparisons of equal-maturity hybrids. Multi-location observations are the most important element for corn growers to focus upon. Select five to 10 hybrids from the trial that are starred with an asterisk in the shaded areas of the data. I caution corn growers that selecting hybrids from only one or two location trials is risky because the overall performance of a hybrid in one environment might be OK, but it might not do so well in another environment.

Seed prices make a difference

The undeniable fact is that seed prices have increased. And, let us remind ourselves that corn hybrid performance continues to march forward at a technologically advanced pace. Yields once thought unattainable are now real. Belowground and aboveground insect protection, herbicide tolerance, disease protection, and so on are a part of varying genetic stacks. With all those choices, how can corn growers make profitable choices buying seed? The UW Crop Seed Price Calculator takes into account virtually all comparisons, including seed cost. The bottom line is that seed cost has to be part of your purchase decisions. In the past, yield performance differences all but ruled out variations in seed prices, but that is no longer true.

Hybrid seed company trial information is also very helpful. Companies know their hybrids and invest significant resources to test, compare and improve their products. Utilize company data especially focused on multiple locations.

And finally, review your own test plot data. Expand your test plot locations if possible.

For more information, visit the Corn Agronomy Web site at corn.agronomy.

Andrews is the Pierce County Extension ag agent.

This article published in the February, 2010 edition of WISCONSIN AGRICULTURIST.

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