If you follow the advice of Dave Nanda, a plant breeder, crops consultant and frequent contributor to Indiana Prairie Farmer, you'll plant a test plot on your own farm. You will include varieties you want to look at. But you'll also include what you're growing on your farm already. And on the bulk of your acreage, you'll stick with what has performed well in your test plot.
You may want to modify this, of course, with results from other locations and other environments, including university test results, notes Nanda, also now Director of Genetics and Technology for Seed Consultants, Inc. But what Nanda doesn't recommend is going 'whole hog' on hybrids or varieties that you know nothing about.
So where does that leave you when major companies announced recently that the number of hybrids they're releasing across the country are dramatically higher than a year ago. For example, Monsanto will release twice the number of Smart Stax hybrids. Mycogen is upping its offering by a significant number of hybrids. And Pioneer is introducing no less than 29 new genetic families of corn hybrids!
How do you know if some of those are right for you? How do you know which ones might be better suited somewhere else? And how do you know which ones are likely to be the highest yielders of the bunch?
It starts with good communication with your seed supplier or suppliers. People like Nanda recommend that you stay with your plan. If you find that one, two or even a few of the new entries brand new for 2011 look promising on paper, stick them in your test plot. Don't plant them on 2,000 acres cold turkey.
What this also means is that hybrid and variety turnover will be more rapid than ever. As more hybrids and varieties are introduced, eventually those older lines that don't perform as well will be retired. The Purdue University Corn Hybrid Test program now only reports two-year data.
As recently as 10 years ago, they reported four years data. Then they dropped to three, and now two. The reason being that there just aren't enough hybrids or varieties that stay around and are popular enough to be entered into the program for testing three or four years in a row, and which are then still on the market for the coming year.
It's good to have choices. Sometimes it's also tough to have so many choices. It will be up to you to decide which ones look right for testing on your farm.