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How Splitting Hybrids and Varieties Can Make You Money

Somewhere, there has to be a field complete with uniform jet-black soils that can spout a 225-bushel-per-acre corn crop year after year.

In reality, though, most of you likely farm fields with different soil types and agronomic characteristics. By planting the same variety through this field, you’re shortchanging yourself on productive soils and bombing out on a field’s poorer soils.

There’s a better way.

Multi-Hybrid Planting from Commodity Classic

At this week’s Commodity Classic in San Antonio, Texas, Beck’s Hybrids officials discussed trials they’ve been running 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 Hybridscentral Illinois practical farm research director. “But 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.”

In these soils, a defensive hybrid that stands up better to stressors like drought would fare better than a fast-growing offensive hybrid.

Split-Hybrid Planter

In 2011, Beck’s Hybrids started planting tests with a multi-hybrid planter that switched between two hybrids based on management zones. Management zones are determined by Beck’s Crop Health Imaging technology; 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 multi-hybrid planting. In 2013, they added a Kinze planter with center-fill capacity for multi-hybrid planting. The switch between hybrids was made in twin rows spaced 8 inches apart, which wasn’t as user-friendly for auto steer as single rows.

In 2014, Beck’s Hybrids has three Kinze 4900 center-fill single-row multi-hybrid planters they’ll be using in tests. Single-row planters work better with auto steer, says Webster.

Raven will be the electronics provider for the system. Hybrids will be switched by electric drives on each planter unit. New Holland T8 Genesis tractors will pull the planters.

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

Results So Far

Here’s how the split-hybrid strategy has worked so far in Beck’s Hybrids tests.
  • Offensive hybrids in high-producing soils garnered an extra average 4.5-bushels-per-acre gain and $24.30 per acre net profit.
  • Defensive hybrids in low-producing soils boosted yields 9.4 bushels per acre and net profits $50.76 per acre.
  • All combined, yields rose 9.5 bushels per acre, and net profits increased $54.24 per acre.

The same concept has also been tested with soybeans. Here’s how that’s worked:

  • Planting a defensive variety on a low-producing field boosted yields 3.7 bushels per acre and net profit $46.81 per acre.
  • Planting an offensive variety on a high-producing field area boosted yields 2.8 bushels per acre and net profits $35.42 per acre.
  • Averaging both management zones, yields rose 3.3 bushels per acre and net profits $41.12 per acre.

Used across the board in both corn and soybeans, multi-hybrid and multi-variety splitting boosted profits $95.36 per acre, points out Webster. 

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