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2 Years of Data Show 9.5 Bu.A. w/$54.24/A ROI on Multi-Hybrid Corn Planting

In 2014, Beck’s Practical Farm Research Team began its third year of evaluation in regard to site-specific multi-hybrid corn planting. At Beck’s Hybrids, we are passionate about recommending the right corn hybrid for our customers’ farms.

This was the driving force behind introducing Beck’s Hybrids very first multi-hybrid planter that was built back in 2012. This planting concept is designed to automatically change corn hybrids on the fly as it plants through varying soil type changes or management zones.

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It’s been a long and interesting journey for the PFR, team testing the concept and reality of multi-hybrid planting. Photo 1 shows a picture of the very first PFR planter used to perform multi-hybrid corn planting back in 2012. This planter was a Kinze 3500 8/15 split-row planter that was converted to do our first multi-hybrid research. Precision Planting hydraulic drives and a Seed Sense 20/20™ directed prescriptions to this planter, and, for our initial year research, it worked well.

In 2013, Beck’s Hybrids expanded its research and testing by partnering with Kinze Manufacturing. Through this partnership, Kinze supplied our PFR Team with a second multi-hybrid planter, a 16-row 3600 twin row (Photo 2). Site-specific hybrid and seeding rate prescription files were directed to this multi-hybrid planter by an Ag Leader® Integra controller with SeedCommand™.

In 2013-2014, Beck’s PFR team also reached out to Great Plains Manufacturing to secure two 20 ft. twin row planters (Photos 3-4) to expand our multi-hybrid planting research even further. These planters were primarily positioned in Western and Southern Illinois. Uthell Seed Sales in Teutopolis, IL and Stufflebeam Farms in Lewistown, IL were pivotal in researching multi-hybrid planting with these Great Plains planters.

These planters not only provided us the benefit of loading the planter with two hybrids, but also gave us the ability to plant the hybrid of choice in various management zones in the field. The front row units of the twin row planter were designated for corn hybrids that were classified as “defensive hybrids”, while the back row units were loaded with a more “offensive hybrid”. The concept of this design allowed us to plant “defensive” corn hybrids on tougher soils with lower organic matter, water holding abilities, or cation exchange capacity. “Offensive” corn hybrids were then planted on the best soils of the farm that typically have the highest yields. Individual hydraulic motors/clutches on the front and rear drive shafts allowed us to change corn hybrids at each soil type or management zone while traveling through the field. As this process happened, corn rows were shifted 8 in. left or right to allow for the corn hybrid transition. Photo 5 illustrates this transition with the twin row planting design.

One of the problems associated with twin row multi-hybrid planting was the fact that the 8 in. offsets caused issues with auto-steer AB lines. To account for these 8 in. transitions, we installed multi-directional GPS receivers on the planter tractors. This sliding GPS receiver was programed to automatically move 8 in. left or right to account for the shift in row as the hybrid changes from the front or rear of the multi-hybrid planter. This gave us the ability to use one standard AB line for auto-guidance while eliminating wide or narrow rows on the outside rows of the planter. The Great Plains planters used in 2014 were equipped with the Raven OmniRow® advanced planter control system, which features patent-pending planter control technology that automatically adjusts AB lines to account for the multi-hybrid shifts.

From our initial idea of multi-hybrid planting, our intention was to ultimately have the ability to change corn hybrids on the fly in a single row, dual corn meter design. This scenario would eliminate the twin row 8 in. transitions as well as the extra row units on the planter. As part of a result of Beck’s PFR testing program, Kinze announced on December 10, 2013 the world’s first electric multi-hybrid concept planter. This new electric drive multi-hybrid concept planter (Photo 6) has new row units that incorporate two meters for every row. The meters feed a single seed tube, so the row unit gauge wheels, openers, and closing wheels are identical to a standard Kinze 4000 series row unit. This was only possible by using the new electric drive option on the Kinze 4000 series meters. By eliminating the drive chain and clutch, it allowed Kinze to orient the meters close together so that they feed a single seed tube.

Beck’s PFR team began research on this new single row, dual meter planter on February 20, 2014 near Temple, Texas. This southern testing (Photos 7-8) in February allowed our team to start testing in warm, dry soils rather than waiting until weather warmed in April and May at Beck’s Central Illinois PFR Center. Once planting was complete in Texas, we shipped the planter back to Illinois for more multi-hybrid planting.

Management zones are a key component of this precision based multi-hybrid corn planting system. Knowing where to plant each hybrid and at what seeding rate is a difficult task for a grower. Developing long-term yield data is helpful in determining and understanding where variable yielding areas are located on a spatial basis within a given field. By knowing the spatial difference in a farm’s overall yield potential, it can allow for the use of a multi-hybrid corn planting system to offer precision placement of corn hybrids.

More research needs to be conducted to evaluate the overall practice of site-specific multi-hybrid corn planting. However, two-year data (Photo 9) from Beck’s Central Illinois PFR Center in 2012-2013 suggests that multi-hybrid planting has offered average yield benefits of 9.5 Bu./A. with a return on investment of $54.24/A. With this in mind, multi-hybrid planting in the future could be an excellent way to master corn hybrid placement. While this technology is still a new concept, it is commercially available today for growers to purchase. That being said, it is imperative that growers start developing management zones in their fields as soon as possible so they are ready for this exciting technology.

Beck's Hybrids PFR program conducts more than 75 different studies across multiple locations (500+ acres) to learn how different management practices and new technologies perform in field environments. Simply put, it is research focused with the farmer in mind. To see the entire study, please download the PFR Book and see page 235.

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