There are many moving parts to getting ready to a new crop year. Checking on equipment, ordering seed, pesticides, fertilizer, fuel, and parts as you discover the need for replacements, selling last year’s crop, booking some of 2021 crop, and making sure your finances are in all order. I’m sure I didn’t list everything but we all get the picture. That’s what makes up a small part of farming. It is an act of faith and action… that we get it right and make good choices and have good weather and, ultimately produce good yields for a good price.
One of the choices that should be made now is selecting the hybrids that perform best on your farm. I am certainly a fan of using several hybrids from different companies (expecting to see different genetic backgrounds) in a range of maturities. In fact, it is good to conduct your own hybrid test plots every year to compare company’s newest hybrids against the ones that are proven most effective on your farm. In fact, invite your county Extension agent to get involved with you. They may not have a lot of time, but I’m sure they would appreciate you asking.
I encourage you to start your own trial this year. I would take copious notes on emergence, gdu’s to silking and black layer, look at ear height, ear quality, insect resistance, disease resistance, husk coverage, stalk strength, test weight, stress tolerance (if it occurs) and of course, yield. It takes a little time during the year to gather this type of information but it will certainly open your eyes to the differences between hybrids when they are under your management. In fact, it will pay huge dividends. I would baby these plots to get the most yield potential out of each hybrid. Be careful. Do everything you can to compare apples and apples, not apples and pomegranates. Keep the same management throughout the year and from year to year. Putting that much energy in to developing a good trial will make you pay close attention to details between the hybrids and help you see things that you could easily miss during the year.
I would use this information to find the most stable hybrids on my farm in performance as every year most likely will be different. Look for good emergence and plant health from the very beginning. Notice the leaf orientation during the season, is it upright, semi-upright or horizontal. How does it respond to your management practices? During the season, watch the leaves for any signs of disease and note the differences between hybrids. Get familiar with the symptoms of southern leaf blight, northern corn leaf blight or spot, common and southern rust and watch for any differences. When you get to R5/6, check the husk coverage and note insect damage. Is the husk tight, or loose. Is the tip exposed? Has the cob grown beyond the husk coverage? Before harvest, look at the ears and note any ear rots. As you harvest, check your grain quality, and note the test weight differences. And finally, take your yield and grain moisture.
Ok, all of this is good going forward but how do you choose for this year. Most companies provide a good set of data from their own test plots in the state. In the past year, I’ve seen hybrids from AgraTech, AgriGold, CropLan, DEKALB, Dyna-Gro, Local Seed, NK, and Pioneer. There are others, of course but you get the picture. There are a lot of different hybrids to choose. I encourage you to attend any meeting where these companies will be in order to pick up some of their literature. If you can’t make a meeting then go on-line and find a company rep and request literature from them. Ask questions on how each of their best hybrids will fit under your conditions. Maybe, they’ve had a hybrid trial near you and you can look at the data upon request. One thing I will encourage you to do is persevere in your journey on the web. Not all companies have real friendly web sites. Sometimes your search for pertinent information to Georgia is buried and difficult to ferret out. That’s why I don’t mind calling my company seed rep. This is a competitive industry and they are happy to help you find what you want.
A good place to see unbiased yield data of the new corn hybrids companies have to offer is the University of Georgia State Wide Variety Testing Program (https://swvt.uga.edu/summer-crops/corn.html). Remember when you look at the tables, that the hybrids in bold are statistically the same. Take the time to review the differences between them. Corn hybrids are tested at Tifton, Midville, Plains, Athens, Rome and Blairsville. You can also see previous year information and get a snap-shot on the performance of hybrids over years. You can also stop by your local county Extension office and have them print off some of the information for you.
Remember, spread your risks by using different maturities, look for solid yield, ability to handle stress, and great disease resistance with good lodging resistance and the best ear quality possible. Oh….I will answer this question about today’s Bt traits. Does the Bt technology pay off? Yes and No. If you are planting in the early portion of your typical planting season, then it is unlikely that you will have a corn earworm or armyworm infestation. Seldom do we have rootworm infestations and very seldom do we suffer corn borers. I will not say never, just very seldom. IF you are planting late where infestations are likely to occur, then it would be beneficial to have the Bt traits. The latest generation of Bt technologies, Viptera, Leptra, and Tricepta show the best resistance in corn. All others are showing signs that the insects have adapted and are developing resistance to the traits.
Can you purchase hybrids without the traits such as conventional hybrids? Maybe. Companies don’t always introduce the bt or traited hybrids in a conventional line. I have seen in some cases, the traited hybrid out performs the conventional hybrid. Saving money is good but not always practical in these cases. Just check with your seed representative.
Thanks for reading. It’s late and there is a fire in the fireplace and it looks quite inviting. As always feel free to contact me if I can help.