It is that time of year to sit down and evaluate the agronomic practices we did in 2018. We ask ourselves many questions trying to learn what worked and what we could do better in 2019.
- Did we apply enough nitrogen?
- Am I applying enough fertility?
- Did cover crops work?
- AND of course, did my hybrids meet my expectations?
Demonstration plots can help growers evaluate hybrids over a wide range of soil types, weather patterns and tillage practices. I would consider the following traits when examining hybrid demonstration plots.
Diseases: 2018 was a great year to evaluate disease resistance. Diseases will start hitting the plant the hardest during the grain fill period causing serious yield reductions from leaf diseases, ear rots and stalk lodging problems. Photosynthesis is the fuel to supply the plant energy for grain fill and plant health. Leaf disease will limit the amount sunlight it can capture and limit yield. Walking plots and your own fields gives you an opportunity to compare the differences among hybrids to disease problems that have occurred in your area. The environment over the last 5 years has created in many regions a concern over late season plant health. This is also a great time to try a foliar fungicide and see how it improves plant health of certain hybrids. Look at a nice mix of hybrids and fungicides in your future hybrid selections.
Lodging: Every year is a good year to evaluating stalk strength scores in your area. Right prior to and during harvest is a good time to assess stalk and root lodging. Environmental conditions along with planting populations can affect stalk and root lodging. Once lodging is noticed pay attention to the timing of the incident and do some more evaluation to determine what caused the event. Early root lodging could be caused by rootworm activity. Later root lodging could be caused by disease or stress from drought, excess heat or excess water. Stalk lodging is general a cause of wind, drought, hail and could be from high populations. If any of these stresses occur on a regular basis in your area, refer to the stalk strength scores in the seed guide because they may give you an insight of performance.
Population: Higher and lower plant populations will affect standability and yield. Certain hybrids have more of a fixed ear type, this means that the plant needs and can be planted at higher populations to achieve the desired yield goal no matter what the environment is. Other plants are a flex type ear which enable the plant to determine yield based off environmental conditions. The better the environment the bigger the ear the plant will produce. These hybrids are generally planted at lower populations. Please make sure that population charts are followed and setting the correct population for the hybrid and field is important. Most plots are planted at the same population, this needs to be taken into consideration when evaluating the plot yield results. An example of this would be if a hybrid with a fixed ear type is planted in a low population plot then hybrids with a flex ear type may have an advantage.
At Hoegemeyer, we are proud of the in-house agronomy research that we provide to farmers to help educate their farming decisions. We continue our extensive work on corn population studies and test our current line-up along with new experimental hybrids coming down the pipeline to maximize your seed investment. Learn more about planting populations here.
Plant and Ear Height: The corn plant reaches its maximum height around tassel time. If you are prone to wind events, plots are a good tool to help make hybrid decisions. A tall plant with a high placed ear is more susceptible to stalk lodging. Also, if you have soil type variances in your fields, you will want to focus on hybrids that have a higher ear placement. Plant type does need to be considered in your decisions for such things as residue management, field variability and cropping preferences such as silage.
Yield Potential: Of course, YIELD is one of the first things that should be considered. When looking at yield make sure you look at more than one plot, make sure those plots have checks or are replicated to smooth out soil variability. Don’t always pick the plot winner! Consistency is the key, look for hybrids that seem to always be in the top 5 in many different plots. Make sure you match up appearances with results, the prettiest one doesn’t always win. Make sure to check on ear appearance. Does it have molds, how many kernels around, how much tip back is there and how many kernels on the ear? Just to name a few.
Contact your local Hoegemeyer dealer to help you evaluate test plots and pick the right seed for your acres.
- Stuart Carlson, Northern Product Agronomist