Results from Iowa State University's 2009 Corn Hybrid Performance Trials at various locations in the state are now available. And they vary widely, which shows just how important it is to make wise choices in the hybrids you buy this winter for planting next spring.
For example, yields from the 2009 corn hybrid performance trial near Corning in southwest Iowa ranged from 214 to 263 bushels per acre. Hybrids grown in the same field with the same management all-season differed by 49 bushels per acre – and that's a fairly typical yield spread in hybrid trials.
Hybrid selection is a critical component for achieving high corn yields. What should you look for when making hybrid selections? Roger Elmore, ISU Extension corn agronomist, writes a column in each issue of Wallaces Farmer magazine, a column called "Corn Source." Here's how he answers that question.
Look at the important corn hybrid characteristics
* Yield is the first thing to consider. Select a hybrid that has performed well across numerous locations and management systems.
* Area-specific relative maturity. The second factor to evaluate is whether or not the hybrid is adapted to grow in your maturity zone. Although 2008 and 2009 were unusually wet, do not make substantial changes in maturities grown in 2010. Balance yield with reasonable grain moisture. Select corn hybrids that have a relative maturity well-suited for your area.
* Standability is still important. Look at the lodging ratings when you are comparing corn hybrids in the trial. Good standability maintains yield and makes harvest easier and faster. Yields were reduced by almost one-half bushel per acre for every 1% increase in lodging in a recent hybrid research trial.
* Insect and disease tolerance. These are always important concerns, especially for corn following corn.
* Appropriate transgenic traits. How many bells and whistles do you really need? It depends on your specific growing conditions and field situations. Transgenic traits potentially protect yield if used when and where needed.
* Seed costs are a consideration. Seed cost has really jumped the past few years. Invest some time with a pencil and calculator or a spreadsheet; use yield, moisture and seed cost information to estimate hybrid profitability.
* Hybrid diversity helps spread your risk. Think of hybrids with identical trait packages and similar maturities as equals in your selection plan. Instead, you should spread your risk and plant diverse hybrids. Even if they have different brand names, you are not diversified if hybrids have similar characteristics.
Last but not least, consider the information sources. Use unbiased data. Performance data on corn hybrids should come from an unbiased source – one that is not promoting any product or company. Although company and private trials are good sources of data to consider, they should never be the sole source of information used in hybrid selection.
The Iowa State University hybrid testing program, conducted in cooperation with the Iowa Crop Improvement Association, provides unbiased hybrid comparison data. See: www.croptesting.iastate.edu/corn/reports.php