This year’s early harvest will likely mean an earlier-than-normal start to the seed selection and buying season.
So what factors should you consider when selecting seed? While that may seem like a dumb question, I believe that a systematic approach to seed selection will lead to better results than buying whatever hot hybrids someone is selling.
Make your first cut in seed selection not on yield, but on the agronomic characteristics you need for each of your unique fields.
For instance, if you have soybean fields with iron chlorosis or soybean cyst, or cornfields with high salts or gravel spots, first eliminate the products that will not meet those agronomic challenges.
If you have fields with significant glyphosate-resistant weeds, you will want to consider alternative herbicide systems on those acres. Most of this region is susceptible to pressure from corn borers, but in many areas you do not need to spend extra for a rootworm trait.
• A systematic approach to selecting seed is the best plan.
• Find products with the traits that are needed for each field.
• Keep the top-performing hybrids or varieties, and switch the rest.
On the flip side, many fields are just more productive than others. These are the fields for those hot, new numbers.
Once the agronomic needs are considered, you clearly want the highest-yielding varieties and hybrids you can find, right? But how do you determine which those are?
When you look at plot data, the first thing to keep in mind is the purpose of using that data. Do you really care which product yielded the best this year? I would suggest that the answer is “no.”
What you are trying to determine is which products will yield the best next year. 2012 was hotter and drier than normal. 2011 was wetter and warmer than normal. 2009 was very wet and very cold in this region. What will next year be like?
Since we have no crystal ball to know next year’s weather now, it is important to plant most of your acres to products that have performed well in many different environments.
I suggest keeping the best-performing half of the products you planted on your farm this year. Plant those on about half your acres. For the other half, I recommend gathering as much data as possible and trying something else.
Increased use of GPS and field mapping is making on-farm trials more accurate. Conducting large-scale replications across a field with different hybrids and varieties is a great way to evaluate performance, while minimizing the variance of the field itself. Consider this method next year when evaluating a new hybrid or variety on your farm.
Replicated small-plot research, similar to what is done by universities and credible seed companies, is a great source for data. These plots minimize the variance in the area the crop is raised and show the true genetic difference among the entries.
Single side-by-side trials never give you adequate data and should not be used in decision-making. This is true for evaluating small plots as well. Use only replicated data with multiple years and locations. Side-by-side show plots are really only useful for evaluating physical differences, since yield can be affected by too many variables (soil, location, mechanical) in a small area.
The more entries there are in the plot, the less valuable the results are as well. Your chances of finding the best hybrid or variety in a plot with two entries is 52%; in a plot of four, it is 33%; and in a plot with 10 or more entries, it is lower than 15%.
There are more choices and variations in the seed industry now than ever before. Take your time in evaluating all your options, and work with a seed supplier who knows your farm and knows product genetics. Trust your seed supplier’s recommendations; they have more information at their disposal than you do, and it is their job to select the correct fit for your needs.
Spelhaug is an agronomist with Peterson Farms Seed, Harwood, N.D. For more information, contact him at 866-481-7333 or email@example.com.
GOOD PICK: Corn seed is ready for the planter.
This article published in the October, 2012 edition of DAKOTA FARMER.
All rights reserved. Copyright Farm Progress Cos. 2012.