The more things change, the more they stay the same. Could such an old-fashioned, simplistic saying still be true? With all the change in the seed industry, including merging of companies, an explosion of technology and huge increases in the prices of seed compared to even a decade ago, could there still be any general guidelines that ought to influence your purchasing today that also applied 10 years ago?
Dave Nanda says 'yes.' The retired plant breeder and Farm Progress crops consultant has preached for decades that you should make sure you're planting a variety of genetic families each year, if you farm any amount of acreage at all, simply so you don't put all your eggs in one basket. Genetic families vary in how they react to various stresses, and even in these days of triple stacks and quad stack hybrids, it's still base genetics that determines whether any one particular hybrid has the potential to produce outstanding yields when conditions are favorable.
Nanda also says it's still possible to determine if you're getting genetics from different families or not. The most reliable way is to buy seed from one company. Some companies may carry two or more hybrids with similar genetics, but other than carrying a hybrid for refuge and a nearly identical hybrid with traits, few if any carry two hybrids that are exactly the same. Perhaps they share a common inbred parent, but not both parents. These are things that a seedsman should be able to tell you about any hybrid in his portfolio of products.
What was true 10 years ago and is still true today, Nanda notes, is that once you buy from more than one company, depending upon what company it is, you could wind up with two hybrids that are very closely related, if not identical. That's because there are still hybrids grown by industry seed corn producers and then purchased and sold by various independent companies under their own labels. At that point, even the seedsman you work with most may not be able to tell you whether a competitive hybrid you're buying is in the same genetic family as one you're buying from his or her company.
The best advice is still to work with your seedsman or seedsmen, whether you're working with one company or half a dozen. Tell each what you need ion terms of a hybrid field by field to help match hybrids to your soil types and conditions. And ask enough questions so that you can determine if the hybrids you're selecting coming in different bags seem to be different, or the same. Hybrid selection can pay off big, and it's worth your time to investigate carefully before choosing hybrids.