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Consider irrigation, yield goal when choosing which hybrid to plant
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Consider irrigation, yield goal when choosing which hybrid to plant

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Many factors go into preparing for planting, but Randy Lloyd, research facility coordinator at West Central Research, Extension and Education Center in North Platte, says seed hybrid selection tops the list.

“You can change a lot of things through the year, whether that’s fertility, or irrigation or pest control,” Lloyd said. “The one thing you can’t change once you make the decision is the hybrid selection.”

Lloyd joined WCREEC this fall, but has been living and working in the area for the past 20 years.

He said growers need to evaluate their specific situation and think carefully about what kind of hybrid they want to plant. Looking at their yield goal for a particular field is another consideration.

“Obviously, everybody would love to have 300-bushel corn, but most of our fields won’t support that kind of production,” Lloyd said. “If you’re going for really big yields, lots of production, that hybrid looks a lot different than if you have a dryland quarter at the back of your farm that doesn’t get a whole lot of care.”

Before choosing a hybrid, the farmer will look at whether irrigation is part of the puzzle. Once they make that decision, they can look at secondary things such as how that hybrid performs under different populations.

“There are many hybrids that you can plant at 40,000-plus seed per acre,” Lloyd said. “That’s going to be highly managed ground, lots of water, lots of fertility.”

He said other hybrids would be planted at 12,000 seeds per acre. That would be in a dryland situation.

“That’s where the competitiveness within the corn plants has to be less because there are fewer resources, mainly water,” Lloyd said.

Another factor is diseases that are common to the area.

“If we’re talking corn, probably the big one out here is called Goss’s wilt,” Lloyd said. “It’s a disease that probably 10-15 years ago was decimating some fields out west.”

Lloyd said the disease could reduce yields by 80 to 100 bushels per acre. Most corn companies saw the issue and started focusing on breeding hybrids that were resistant to that disease.

Because farmers can choose from a much wider range of hybrids today, it is still something they have to keep an eye on during the selection process. Many areas of the country don’t have Goss’s wilt, so there are hybrids that are very susceptible to it.

“If you read in the Successful Farming Magazine that ‘hybrid X’ won the national yield contest at 400 bushels per acre,” Lloyd said, “and you decide that’s the one you want, and you find out that Goss’s wilt tolerance is next to zero, it’s a huge mistake.”

Lloyd said there are a number of good and reliable sources of local information.

“Most companies that sell seed have local technical agronomists — that was my previous role — so they know the area very well,” Lloyd said. “They know their lineup very well, where it fits and where it doesn’t fit.”

Another source of information is UNL Extension. They will have a broader knowledge, maybe not to the specifics of a given company’s product lineup, but good general information.

“If you’re talking about a specific company or specific hybrid, of course, then you’re probably going to need to go to that company and ask them, ‘Tell me what this does and what this doesn’t do,’” Lloyd said.

There is a complexity to the decision-making process, but Lloyd says nothing more vital than knowing as much about the various aspects as possible to make an informed decision.

“If you can get it right the first time,” Lloyd said, “that means you’re planting the hybrid of your choice, you’re planting at the time of your choice, and your crop is probably in the best situation to make its maximum yield.”

If the wrong hybrid is chosen or if something else goes wrong at planting, the selection of possible hybrids narrows.

“If you get in a hurry and all of a sudden you have to replant, you’re not going to have the same selection of hybrids that you had back in December,” Lloyd said. “You’re basically going to get whatever’s left.”

Corn is grown across the country based on maturity time. In this area farmers typically have 105- to 115-day corn, with some variances.

“If you’ve chosen your favorite 112-day corn and something goes wrong, you may end up with 103-day corn,” Lloyd said. “Because it’s going to get later in the season, you’re going to have to pick something that doesn’t take quite as long to mature.”

He said anything that gets a farmer off his plan is not good.

“You’re going to be fighting from behind,” Lloyd said. “You’re going to be trying to make up ground during the season.”

Most farmers in this area of Nebraska start early planting around mid-April. Lloyd says most like to be done by mid-May.

“If something happens and you’re out there in the first week of June,” Lloyd said, “your yield potential from the day you put your seed in the ground is reduced significantly.”

Other factors this year involve increased production costs and will be very challenging.

“Some of the herbicides that are typically used in our area are up 400% to 600%,” Lloyd said. “I think, probably, they’re not even going to be available from a supply standpoint.”

He said often the public sees commodity prices rising and think farmers will be making a lot of money.

“Typically that’s when the industry thinks they need to get a little piece of that pie, too, and so their stuff goes up,” Lloyd said. “It’s a vicious cycle.”


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