University field trials show that hybrid selection is the number one factor in determining yield. Four years of yield data from the University of Minnesota illustrate the impact hybrid selection has on a corn grower’s bottom line.
“We identified key agronomic practices that impact a grower’s success including hybrid selection, crop rotation, tillage systems and relative maturities,” said Jeff Coulter, University of Minnesota extension agronomist. “Selecting proven, well adapted hybrids with high yield potential can make a large impact on overall performance.”
According to the research, return to the grower was between 37 to 64% when comparing highest to lowest yielding hybrids. “No other decision can make that large of an impact,” said Fritz Behr, PhD, vice president of research at Wyffels Hybrids.
Bill Jay, who farms just west of Champaign, typically makes his hybrid decisions shortly after harvest. He plants corn from several different companies, bases a lot of his decisions on what has worked well in the past on his ground and focuses on base genetics.
“We have corn rootworm pressure in this area, so I plant some traited seed with above- and below-ground insect control, but I mostly concentrate on good base genetics. That means a lot more to us than what’s stacked on to it.”
According to Behr, review the following factors when selecting corn hybrids for next year:
- Your geography, number of growing degree days, soil type and drainage
- Prevalent disease and insect problems
- Fertility choices
- Local yield / performance data across multiple years and multiple sources including universities, grower associations, seed companies and on-farm strip trials
- Available data, products and new technology from a knowledgeable seed representative
- Harvestability and root lodging resistance
- Stalk strength and greensnap resistance
- Disease resistance that matches your past disease pressure
- Reaction to drought stress
- Test weight
- Dry down
Behr also recommends planting a selection of hybrids with different maturities and genetics to help manage both the risk of summer heat stress with pollination timing and the workload at harvest. “Since we can’t predict what kind of growing season we’ll have, it’s best to plant 25% early maturing hybrids, 50% mid-range and 25% late maturing hybrids,” he said.
The second-ranked practice in the Minnesota trials, crop rotation, affected 4 to 19% of yield. Research generally demonstrates a yield improvement for corn following soybeans or alfalfa, however, some growers take advantage of the high yield potential that continuous corn can offer when prices are right.
A relatively small percentage of Jay’s fields are continuous corn, but he understands the extra steps needed when selecting hybrids. “You really have to be particular with your corn-on-corn hybrids,” he said. “Some are stronger, can withstand the stress and have better disease resistance. We manage those acres a lot more carefully, not just with the hybrids we select, but also applying fungicides and other practices.”