Planting 20 hybrids across the field wouldn't have helped this year, but let's hope the experts are right—this is a once in 50 or 75 year thing. No good manager makes decisions based on something that should happen once in 50 or once in 75 years. Instead, they make decisions based upon what happens in most years under their conditions.
Toby Ripberger, head of Practical Farm Research, is showing visitors to Becknology Days this Week (Thursday through Saturday at Atlanta plant) an idea that he believes hold promise. That is varying not only population, but hybrid, by soil type across the field. Ideally, if the idea proves to have a yield advantage, it would be handled by computer. This year, Ripberger planted test strips of one hybrid, then changed seed, and filled in the same rows where the second hybrid belonged.
One of his protégés, Jason Webster, manager of the Beck's PFR station in central Illinois, actually designed a planter that would allow him to switch hybrids on the go. He took an existing Kinze 15-inch row soybean planter and added the extra row upfront to give him eight rows in front and eight in back. He assures anyone who asks that it wasn't as easy as it sounds. It also involved a different alignment with the wheels carrying the planter vs. where row units run.
What he ended up with was a planter that he could program to plant one hybrid in one location, and another hybrid in another location, and vary it as much as necessary across the field,. He could also vary rates. This may not be the year to show him if it worked, but he hopes to continue working with the concept and the planter.