Hybrid Selection for '09 Starts Now

Think of choices field by field.

Published on: Sep 1, 2008

The message Dave Nanda took to farmers at the Farm Progress Show in Boone, Iowa, last week is the same message he delivers to farmers he visits in Indiana and Ohio, where he works with a small seed company, Bird Hybrids. Nanda also consults for Corn Illustrated, sponsored by Farm Progress.

"Select hybrids that are best for each field," he says. "You really need to know what soil types and conditions exist in the field. What works in one location, even in one field on the same farm, may not work somewhere else."

Nanda discussed a whole host of factors and questions he believes a farmer should think through when selecting a hybrid for a specific field. For example, what is the soil fertility level in the field? What plant population do you want to plant? What type of tillage system will you use?

Some hybrids naturally perform better in some categories, compared to competitive hybrids, than others. However, nearly every hybrid on the market has a niche, or it wouldn't maintain a spot in the company's line-up.

An excellent example of comparing two hybrids developed on the Corn Illustrated plots near Edinburgh, Ind., earlier this spring. The populations study was planted on May 5. Two weeks of cool, rainy weather began about May 7. Two hybrids, both elite genetics with stacked traits, were planted side by side at each population. The trial was replicated.

By the end of May, the farmer , Jim Facemire, was amazed at the difference between the two hybrids. "One was up, looking good, at good populations, and the other one was just poking through the ground, with uneven emergence," he recalls. In a couple of weeks, after better growing weather, the obvious differences disappeared. CI staff will keep a careful eye out at harvest to see if that difference in early seedling vigor might play into a yield difference between the two hybrids.

Obviously, the slower-emerging hybrid wouldn't be a good choice if you're no-tilling, Nanda notes. Often you're planting into cooler, wetter soils where good seedling vigor and the ability to emerge under less than optimal conditions pays off. Yet the slow emerger is a proven yielder, or it wouldn't be on the market, Nanda notes.

Pay attention to stalk rot and differences if disease potential as the season winds down, too, the corn breeder says. Some hybrids carry different disease and insect-protection packages than others. You may need stronger protection, especially from disease, in certain fields, such as continuous corn fields, where disease pressure is likely to be higher since inoculum usually builds up faster. A hybrid that's a good yielder but that doesn't have quite as strong a health package might still work well in a corn/soybean rotation. Fungicides are available today if they're needed to assist hybrids that might need a boost on disease control.