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4 considerations regarding 2011 corn hybrids

Gil Gullickson 10/22/2010 @ 9:57am Crops Technology Editor for Successful Farming magazine/Agriculture.com

It used to be you’d have a few weeks after harvest before thinking about next year’s corn hybrid lineup. No more. The selling season now starts in late summer and is well underway at harvest.

Here are four things to consider and expect as you pick 2011 hybrids that Syngenta Seeds officials discussed during this week’s Syngenta Media Summit.

1) Diversify your hybrid lineup. Planting a diverse group of high-yielding hybrids is a time-tested way to reduce risk against variable weather. But how can you tell you’re indeed planting hybrids with different genetics?

One way is to check tassel color. “Different colored tassels indicate different genetic backgrounds,” says Eric Boersma, corn portfolio manager for Syngenta Seeds. “Also, when you look at different hybrids in test plots, you can see plant differences. Some hybrids are upright and have dark green leaves. Others are lighter colored and have more droopy leaves. Some hybrids will have longer, more slender ears than others. Those are visual clues of genetic diversity.”

Product technology sheets can also reveal diversity clues. “If all hybrids are rated the same in all the categories, there is probably not much diversity,” he adds.

2) Assess hybrid resistance to Goss’s Wilt. That’s particularly true if you farm in the western Corn Belt. “Goss’s wilt has become endemic in many western areas,” says David Morgan, president of Syngenta Seeds.

Since this is a bacterial disease, fungicides will not control it. What to do? “One way to prevent is to plant (Goss’s wilt) tolerant hybrids,” says Boersma.

3) Expect more and more trait stacks. “In 2010, close to two-thirds of our (corn) portfolio was in the triple-stack frame,” says Morgan. Levels will likely climb above this level for 2011.

4) You can plant hybrids thicker than you used to. Studies show optimum populations have risen 3,000 to 4,000 plants per acre in the past four to five years across the board, says Bruce Battles, Syngenta Seeds agronomy marketing manager.

“Lots of the yield potential increase is due to the plant’s ability to withstand (plant) competition and not sacrifice yield potential,” says Battles.

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