Lizabeth Stahl, University of Minnesota Extension Service, Extension Regional Center, Worthington
What factors should you consider when selecting next year's corn hybrids? Regardless of the current focus on technology traits, yield potential should still be the number one consideration in hybrid selection. Hybrid performance and reliability are driven by the hybrid's genetic package so be sure you are starting with a base that meets your needs. Technology traits can't add bushels to a hybrid's yield potential - they can only help protect it.
When looking at the different technologies available, ask yourself if you need Bt seed for corn borer and/or corn rootworm control. Have you seen root lodging or other evidence of insect pressure in your fields? Have you tried a side by side comparison to see if there might be pressure you didn't realize existed? Compare the benefits, such as not having to deal with insecticides at planting time, to the added seed costs. If you need insect control, cost of insecticide and application may be equal to or greater than the extra seed cost, so production cost may not go up when buying Bt. Also look at the range of insects the trait has resistance to since not all traits are created equal. You may purchase seed with technology traits for "insurance", but be sure to weigh the price of that insurance to your benefits.
If you are considering a herbicide tolerant hybrid, will a Roundup or Liberty herbicide program best address your weed control needs? Compare the entire seed and herbicide program costs of a conventional program to a herbicide tolerant program. If you are using Roundup Ready soybeans, are you concerned about the potential development of herbicide resistance in your field or shifts to more Roundup-tolerant weeds that could occur over time with continuous use of Roundup?
Other important considerations in hybrid selection include maturity, moisture, agronomic traits (i.e. standability, disease tolerance, test weight, etc.), and price. As drying costs add up this year, you may be tempted to forgo full-season hybrids next year. Keep in mind we experienced one of the coldest growing seasons from May to August on record this year, which significantly delayed crop development. Although you may plan to adjust the percent of full-season hybrids planted, full-season hybrids adapted to your area will typically yield the best and generate the most profits. Harvest moistures have been running about 5 to 6 percentage points above five year averages this year. It is hard to predict what will happen with LP gas prices next year, but drying costs should be much lower if harvest moistures are more "normal" next year.
Is it sufficient to use data from your own farm when selecting hybrids for next year? Dale Hicks, Extension Corn Specialist with the University of Minnesota , evaluated seven years of corn hybrid test results from the University of Wisconsin to help answer this question. Top yielding hybrids from each year at one, two, or three locations were grown at all three locations in replicated trials the following year. Results from this study showed that yields the following year were higher if hybrids were chosen from multiple location averages rather than the single location averages. Average performance also decreased if more than three hybrids were grown the following year. This study demonstrates that the best hybrid decisions are based on results from several locations rather than just your own farm or a location near your farm. This study also suggests that average performance decreases when more than three hybrids from a maturity group are grown.
Hybrid selection is one of the most important decisions you will make for next year's growing season. There are many factors to consider in hybrid selection but time invested in this decision can help optimize profits next year.