The 2012 season was a wake-up call to anyone younger than 40, and to plant breeders of all ages. Today's genetics may have a base yield above 160 bushels per acre, compared to 25 for Reid's yellow dent, an open-pollinated line grown extensively through most of the 1930s, but even today's genetics is no match for Mother Nature on the war path.
Dave Nanda, with more than 40 years of experience breeding and working with corn, and director of genetics and technology for Seed Consultants, Inc., suggests thinking through several alternatives and factors before picking hybrids for 2013 for your farm. Here are just a few of his ideas.
First, select hybrids on a field-by-field basis. Pay special attention to soil type. If 2012 taught no other lesson, it taught that soil type can have a tremendous difference in supplying moisture to plants at the right time. Some hybrids withstood sub-par soils on water-holding capacity better than others.
Second, remember that full-season hybrids for your area generally have the highest yield potential. They can fully utilize the growing season. But don't use hybrids in only one maturity range. Consider three instead. Nanda prefers planting full-season hybrids on 70% of your corn acreage, medium maturity hybrids on 20% and early hybrids on 10% of your land going to corn. What's full in one geography may be medium or early in another.
Be sure to plant hybrid pairs that differ in pollen shed by two to three days. Your seedsman should have this information. Extending the pollination period would have helped in 2012. By the time some plants put out shoots, there was no pollen left.
Whether or not you have a dryer and grain handling system is another consideration, Nanda says. Many people sold out of the field this year to an elevator. Some dried the corn first, others took it straight to town. If you don't have a dryer and don't intend to get one, concentrate on planting early and planting earlier maturity hybrids for your area.