Welcome to our 2021 Seed to Grain Series, powered by Solutions 360! Throughout the year, we’ll follow a corn crop from preseason planning to post-harvest analysis. In Part 1, we want to focus on a million dollar question in agriculture – how do I know I’m putting the right seed on the right acre?
Choosing the right seed is about more than just yield performance. Today’s hybrids are a combination of many key traits, and it’s important to consider which ones will make a difference in your fields. Here are a few tips from our agronomist, Todd Farver, on what factors to take into account when purchasing your seed. Check out the video here!
First things first, it’s important to remember there isn’t a silver bullet when it comes to seed hybrids. No one seed can perform the best in every soil type, region, weather, chemical application – so why put all your eggs in one basket? Vary your hybrid choices to help spread risk and be more cost effective. That being said, don’t choose variety numbers at random. Evaluate each field and choose hybrids based on the characteristics and history of those specific acres. By customizing your seed plan for each farm and/or field, you’ll have a better shot at maximizing performance and return across your whole operation.
When choosing seed, it’s important to consider the other operations you’ll perform throughout the year. For example, do you plan to use fungicide on your corn acres? If so, this can affect which hybrid you plant, since some varieties have a greater response to fungicide than others. In this case, ask your seed rep if they have any trial data related to fungicide use to make sure you choose a hybrid with a high response rate. The same idea applies to lots of different chemicals – hence the reason we have Roundup Ready corn and LibertyLink soybeans. Bottom line, avoid choosing your nutrients, varieties, and chemicals separately without considering how they interact across the board. You should also take prior disease history into account. If you know that a specific farm has had issues with a certain disease – for example, gray leaf spot – ask your seed rep about hybrids that have a lower susceptibility level or higher tolerance (depending on the issue).
While you’re thinking about the seed going in the ground, go ahead and plan for the grain that will come out. Consider the logistics of harvest when it comes to choosing maturity lengths. Remember that a good rule of thumb is to have your corn reach maturity about 10 days before the first freeze to allow for dry down time. Even though the majority of your crop will likely see the same (or similar) weather throughout the growing season, you also have to consider the risk management portion of maturity. Let’s say that 300 of your acres are all planted at the same maturity and are at roughly the same growth stage. If you have a harmful weather event happen during pollination of those 300 acres, you’ll risk a much larger crop than if the pollination dates were staggered even a little bit. Aside from the growing time, you also have to think about how your time will be spent. If almost all of your crop is going to reach maturity at the same time, you may wind up sacrificing good harvestability due to crop standing too long.
Yield performance is one of the top factors used when choosing seed, for obvious reasons. But it’s not the only number that matters, and can actually only tell part of the story. When looking at hybrid performance, make sure to evaluate across a larger region with a similar climate (not just the area you farm in) – this will tell you how that seed performs in wet conditions, dry conditions, or any mix in between. You should also use several years worth of data to get a better picture of how a variety performs. Looking at a single year or short time span can be misleading, since major weather events or pest & disease issues can skew performance. In addition to viewing published hybrid performance from the seed company, take a look at your own data to see what’s worked on your acres in the past. If you’ve planted a couple different varieties across several acres for a few years now, your harvest data should be able to tell you quite a bit about how it’s performed with your cropping practices and field conditions. Don’t forget to take year-to-year cropping practices into account when viewing data. If you run any corn-on-corn acres, standability will be a huge factor when compared to corn-on-soybean rotations.
If you’ve recently switched from 30″ to 20″ rows (or vice versa), it’s important to note than more than just the target population can change. Standability and corn leaf angle can be important factors to consider when planting in 20″ rows, since the plants are spaced further apart along the row. Regardless of planter configuration, it’s important to think about your target planting population. Some hybrids have traits that do well when planted in larger populations, while others may suffer and underperform. Take both the published seed information and your own historical data into account when planning populations. For instance, if you’re planning to shoot for 34,000 seeds/acre and your own data shows that a specific hybrid starts to drop yield at 32,000 seeds/acre, then it most likely isn’t the best candidate for your goal population. Planter size on its own doesn’t affect yield performance as much as the condition of the metering & delivery systems. Of the 4 main factors that affect corn yield, uniform emergence has the largest impact of 5-9%. If your planter isn’t providing you with uniform depth, spacing, & soil cover, your seeds will have a lower chance of emerging evenly and producing well. Emergence is a two-player game – so while it’s super important to maintain a well-performing planter, it’s also worthwhile to look at the stress emergence rating of hybrids (if available). This can give you a little extra assurance that your varieties will have a better shot at emerging uniformly, even in less-than-ideal conditions.
We can’t wait to bring the rest of the 2021 Seed to Grain Series to you! Subscribe to our mailing list, follow us on social media, and check out our 2021 Series Page to be notified when the next part is available.
Sources & Supporting Articles
Top 6 tips for selecting corn hybrids. FarmProgress. September 29, 2017. https://www.farmprogress.com/corn/top-6-tips-selecting-corn-hybrids.
Weigh These Factors Before Selecting 2019 Seed. Successful Farming. October 8, 2018. https://www.agriculture.com/crops/corn/weigh-these-factors-before-selecting-2018-seed.
How to Make Sense of Your Seed Options. Successful Farming. October 5, 2018. https://www.agriculture.com/how-to-make-sense-of-your-seed-options.
Narrow Rows, Big Results. Progressive Farmer. September 1, 2020. https://www.dtnpf.com/agriculture/web/ag/news/article/2020/09/01/conquer-corn-costs-narrow-rows-big.
Stress Emergence Ratings Differentiate Corn Hybrids. Wallaces Farmer. March 19, 2014. https://www.farmprogress.com/story-stress-emergence-ratings-differentiate-corn-hybrids-9-109616.