Walk Corn Hybrid Plots in August
R.L. (Bob) Nielsen
Agronomy Dept., Purdue Univ.
West Lafayette, IN 47907-2054
Email address: rnielsen
"Choosing hybrids wisely may be one of the most important decisions you make that influence the profitability of next year's corn crop!" - Some smart corn guy told me that
ake the effort during the "dog days" of late August to visit nearby seed company test plots and write down your own notes on hybrid characteristics that may help your decision-making process later on in the fall. Don't wait for the seed company field day. Stop by any variety test plot that is "signed" by the seed rep. The presence of hybrid signs is your invitation to stop and walk the plots.
Test plots are great for evaluating heritable traits like plant or ear height, husk coverage, disease resistance, stalk health and integrity, and overall plant health. If the growing season has been overly dry, look at the success or lack thereof in kernel set or kernel depth on the ears. If the conditions have been conducive for foliar diseases, compare the severity of leaf disease among the hybrids. If the grain fill period has experienced serious stress, look for evidence of hybrid differences for stalk cannibilization or stalk rot.
When you attend seed company field days late in the summer, make the effort not to be a passive observer and listener. Speak up and ask the hard questions about disease resistance, stalk health, emergence vigor, drought tolerance, "wet feet" tolerance, consistency of yield potential across varied environments, and other important hybrid characteristics that may not be addressed at the field day stops or in the sales literature handed out at the field day. If you don't understand the hoopla over the many and varied biotech traits, then be sure to ask for explanations.
Two Pieces of Advice
- If you do not know whether a variety test plot was sprayed with a foliar fungicide earlier in the season, then be cautious with your evaluations of apparent differences among hybrids for severity of leaf diseases like gray leaf spot.
- Keep an eye out for those big d*** garden spiders and their webs as you walk through variety plots in August. In my mind, they are in the same category as tarantulas!
Nielsen, R.L. (Bob). 2009. Hybrid Selection: Where’s the Beef? Corny News Network, Purdue Univ. [online] http://www.kingcorn.org/news/timeless/HybridSeln.html [URL accessed Aug 2010].