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Split Hybrids Between Management Zones

Somewhere, there has to be a field complete with uniform jet-black soils that can sprout a 250-bushel-per-acre corn crop year after year.

In reality, though, most of you farm fields with these rich soils interspersed by spartan ones. Planting the same hybrid throughout this field can shortchange yields on multiple soil types.

There’s a better way. Beck’s Hybrids has been running trials with a planter that splits hybrids across a field according to management zones.

“We take advantage of good soils in a field by planting an offensive corn hybrid,” says Jason Webster, Beck’s central Illinois practical farm research director. “On tougher soils – maybe those lighter soils that run out of water-holding capacity and are low in cation-exchange capacity – you probably don’t want to plant an offensive hybrid.”

On those soils, a defensive hybrid that better withstands stressors would fare better than an offensive hybrid.

Split-hybrid planter

In 2011, Beck’s started testing a multihybrid planter that switched between two hybrids based on management zones. Management zones are determined by Beck’s Crop Health Imaging technology in which areas of the field with the highest and lowest plant health are geospatially referenced. Management zones can also be determined by GIS yield mapping. Soil types can be used, but they are not as accurate as Crop Health Imaging or GIS yield mapping, says Webster.

Beck’s initially converted a Kinze split-row planter for multihybrid planting. In 2013, Beck’s added a Kinze planter with center-fill capacity for multihybrid planting. The switch between hybrids was made in twin rows spaced 8 inches apart, which wasn’t as user-friendly for auto steering as single rows.

In 2014, Beck’s tested three Kinze 4900 center-fill single-row multihybrid planters. Single-row planters work better with auto steering, says Webster. Raven provided the electronics for the system. Electric drives on each planter unit switched the hybrids.

“Every time the planter crosses into a management zone, it automatically switches hybrids,” says Webster. “Management zones are the most critical part of the system. If you don’t have management zones set up, a multihybrid corn planter won’t work.”

In 2015, Raven will be providing the electronics for Kinze’s new electric multi-
hybrid planter that is in limited production for the spring 2015 planting season.

Results so far

Here’s how the split-hybrid strategy has worked so far with corn.
Offensive hybrids in high-producing soils garnered an extra average 10.9 bushel-per-acre gain and a $63.04 per-acre net profit.

Defensive hybrids in low-producing soils boosted yields 8.1 bushels per acre and had net profits of $45.49 per acre.

All combined, yields rose 9.5 bushels per acre; net profits increased $54.24 per acre. The same concept has also been tested with soybeans. Following are the results so far:

• Planting an offensive variety on a high-producing field area boosted yields 2.8 bushels per acre and had net profits of $35.42 per acre.

• Planting a defensive variety on a low-producing field area boosted yields 3.7 bushels per acre and had net profits of $46.81 per acre. Averaging both management zones, yields rose 3.3 bushels per acre and net profits were $41.12 per acre.

Used across the board in both corn and soybeans, multihybrid and multivariety splitting boosted profits $47.68 per acre, says Webster.

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