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Weigh These Factors Before Selecting 2019 Seed

Many factors should be considered when it comes to hybrid selection.

When you consider 2019 seed selection, you probably want to pencil out how to save a few dollars without it costing you next fall.

“When you think about which hybrids to plant next season, make sure to take into account all the relevant factors,” says Mark Licht, Iowa State University Extension cropping systems specialist, in an Integrated Crop Management article.

Many factors should be considered when it comes to hybrid selection, such as crop rotation and management practices. While previous years’ hybrid genetics do not have an influence on the current year’s hybrid performance, planting hybrids with the same insect/herbicide traits for multiple years puts you at a greater risk of resistance development, says Licht. 

As you prioritize yield potential and risk management, don’t forget about the other components to seed selections. Below are the factors you should consider when making selections.

​Yield and yield consistency

“Genetic diversity is important, but yield is the most important factor to consider when choosing hybrids,” says Licht. “The best production strategies will not result in high yields if you don’t choose high-yielding hybrids.”

That means you should reevaluate hybrids every year. Newer hybrids typically offer higher yield potential than those that have been on the market for several years, says Licht. 

Select for hybrids that have consistently high yield performance from location to location and from year to year. To ensure this, look at multiple data sources, including university trials, public hybrid trials, and seed company and retailer trials. Use as much data as you can to ensure a reliably good hybrid choice, he says.

Transgenic options

Consider which genetic traits are useful and effective in your fields. 

“Many hybrids have traits for insect protection, and most have herbicide traits,” says Licht. “Think about whether you need all of the traits or will use the traits that are available in a given hybrid, and evaluate whether transgenic hybrids would be more beneficial to your crop compared to conventional hybrids.”

Other risk management factors to consider:

  • Disease tolerance should be another part of your decision-making process. “One way to prevent disease could be choosing a hybrid that has resistance or tolerance to diseases typical of your production environment,” says Licht. “Look for disease ratings to minimize risk of disease pathogen infections.” 
    Consider whether hybrid disease ratings can be used to offset the need of in-season foliar fungicide applications. 
  • Grain drydown is an important factor, especially for farmers who have limited or no drying facilities on their farms. When you look for hybrid dry down characteristics, you should also consider hybrid maturity.
    “Earlier maturing hybrids have a greater potential for field drydown while later maturing hybrids have less field drydown potential and greater risk of a killing fall frost,” explains Licht. “Be careful when choosing a hybrid for this reason. Both maturity selection and drydown characteristics can be exploited to achieve similar goals.”
  • Standability and stalk quality ensure that corn is harvestable. “While hybrids are often characterized for standability and stalk quality, weather conditions throughout the growing season can have a large influence,” he says. “You can help evaluate the performance of hybrids in this area by doing a pinch test on cornstalks in all your fields every year.”
  • Early season vigor is key to a strong season and getting adequate stand establishment. “With hybrid selection occurring well ahead of planting, hybrids with good early season vigor can help protect against unpredictable weather conditions in April and May,” says Licht. Factor in seedling vigor if you plant into cover crops or high amounts of residue, or have typically cold, wet soils.

“While understanding that corn hybrids should be placed according to management practices being used, also realize the hybrid selection can be an integral part of a pest management program,” says Licht. “Transgenic traits and disease ratings can be used to determine if in-season foliar fungicides are needed, and they dictate aspects of the herbicide program being used.”

Seed costs

Weigh the benefits of your hybrids against trade-offs in your herbicide and fungicide programs, advises Licht, especially when considering conventional or various levels of trait inclusion. “Balancing the level of transgenic traits attained vs. the cost for alternative management can provide an opportunity to save seed costs with additional expense for pesticides.”

In summary, prioritize yield potential and risk management when choosing hybrids. Choose a diverse mix of hybrids. Consider the transgenic hybrids that may fit your farm situation. Evaluate hybrids based on their disease resistance, their potential for drydown and maturation, their standability, and their early-season vigor. Plant new hybrids frequently to prevent resistance development. Make sure to keep cost in mind by balancing hybrid benefits with their price tag to ensure that you make profitable decisions.

The bottom line: Choose a diverse mix of hybrids to reduce the risk associated with the weaknesses of any individual hybrid, says Licht.

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