By Jeff Coulter, Extension Corn Agronomist
Results from the 2013 University of Minnesota corn silage performance trials are available at: http://z.umn.edu/silage2013
These trials were conducted across southeastern, central, and west-central Minnesota to provide unbiased and replicated information on the performance of numerous silage hybrids for growers and their advisors.
It is best to choose hybrids that perform well over multiple locations in a region. Consistent performance over multiple locations with different soil and weather conditions reduces risk because we cannot predict next year's growing conditions. A hybrid that performs well over multiple growing conditions in one year has a high potential for performing well in the same region during the next year.
To reduce risk, growers and their advisors are encouraged to select hybrids based on trial results from multiple sources, including universities, grower associations, seed companies, and on-farm strip trials. Results from unbiased and replicated trials that include multiple entries from different companies are of particular importance.
Links to results from other corn trials:
Considerations for Silage Hybrid Selection:
Longer-season hybrids tend to have higher silage yields. A general guideline is that hybrids planted for silage should be 5 to 10 days longer in relative maturity than the hybrids planted for grain. However, these later-maturing hybrids may not be the best choice for a producer wanting early silage or the option to harvest the corn for grain.
Select multiple hybrids that range in relative maturity, as this widens the harvest window. Harvesting at the correct moisture level is critical for producing high quality silage, and if missed, can negate the benefits of good hybrid selection. The importance of widening the harvest window was seen again in 2013, as corn dried rapidly under dry late-season conditions. Planting hybrids with a range in maturity also widens the pollination window, thereby reducing the risk that one's entire crop will experience hot and dry conditions during pollination.
Other important agronomic considerations when selecting silage hybrids include herbicide and insect resistance for the given cropping system, and tolerance to drought and disease. Standability is less important for silage hybrids than grain hybrids due to the earlier time of harvest.
Since corn silage is an energy source for livestock performance, producers should consider both silage quality and yield when selecting hybrids. Milk per ton is an overall indication of silage quality, and is estimated from forage analyses for crude protein (CP), neutral detergent fiber (NDF), NDF digestibility (NDFD), starch, and non-fiber carbohydrate. Once a suitable group of hybrids has been identified based on milk per ton and yield, further selection within this group can be based on specific forage quality and agronomic traits. Consult with a livestock nutritionist during the silage hybrid selection process to ensure that the selected hybrids will have the necessary nutritional value for your herd.