Fit Nutrition to Hybrid Type

 In Educational

Every season brings new opportunity and new hybrid genetics. While yield determines a farmer’s gross return, they should not focus solely on yield data when making selections. Maximizing yield potential requires finding the right fit of traits and characteristics that match with each farmer’s unique production system. That gives Maximum Farming System customers a leg up on farmers who use a traditional nutritional program.

Because the best insurance against yield loss is improving soil health and providing balanced nutrition according to the 5Rs, the Maximum Farming System adjusts its recommendations based on the hybrid types a farmer chooses. Knowing the characteristics of those hybrid types can help you select the right mix of hybrids for any operation.

Start by selecting three or more hybrids with varying maturity ratings (whether estimated as days to tassel or growing degree units to black layer) that fit well into the typical growing season. Use a multi-year assessment of the date of last spring frost and first fall frost to set your boundaries of maximum season length.

Also, keep in mind rainfall distribution; you may want to adjust expectations somewhat based on seasonal rainfall patterns (or the availability of irrigation water) because grain fill is dependent on late season water availability. And, consider reducing your target maturity by up to seven days if you plan on using fall cover crops. This approach can extend the optimal planting and harvesting windows, allowing a farmer to ensure better timing of each in the face of uncertain weather conditions. It also limits downside risk by ensuring the yield sensitive pollination period from VT to R2 does not occur at the same time across the entire farm.

Once a maturity rating is selected, choose a hybrid type based on a farm’s overall growing conditions and the most workable timing for side dress nitrogen applications. Type I hybrids are “work horse” types that do well on poorer soils or areas with harsher growing conditions, especially late season drought. These hybrids are usually classified as being “determinate” type ears. They typically have more determinant ear size, with less flexing potential. They are also more likely to have more arching leaves that close canopy earlier. Such features increase stress tolerance but also encourage earlier side dress N applications. Their genetics predispose them to tolerate nutrient imbalances (e.g. excessive K) better, so they tend to be more forgiving of poor soil management. They also rely more heavily on N acquired before brown silk, so lower rates of supplemental N are needed to optimize profitability.

In contrast, Type III hybrids are “racehorse” types that do better on good quality soils (e.g. with high corn suitability ratings), but require more inputs to reach full potential. Such types respond more dramatically to fertilizer additions by having “flex” type ears. They also can be planted at higher densities, allowing for more ears per acre, because of their upright leaf growth habit. Inside Type III hybrids, early season P levels set kernel number and late season N levels set kernel depth. The down-side is that such hybrids are also more likely to suffer from green snap and be less tolerant of drought, disease, and insect problems. It is important to weigh the tradeoffs between added insurance and input costs to manage Type III hybrids successfully versus their increased yield potential.

Across the spectrum, there are all manner of intermediate Type II hybrids that have some mix of characteristics noted above. Because of this, it is important to evaluate hybrid performance in nearby fields or test plots that reflect the soil types, growing conditions, and nitrogen management practices on your farm. Comparing ear height, husk coverage, ear leaf damage, stalk girth, and overall plant height within a maturity class can help you identify hybrids with the traits you want.

It is important to note that the nomenclature of “work horse” or “racehorse” in classifying these hybrid types is only representative of positioning, and in no way indicative of yield potential. Yield is not specifically a component of hybrid type, but rather a function of managing each hybrid type correctly while having the environment to support its growth. It is also important that growers don’t accidentally duplicate hybrid genetic backgrounds when purchasing from multiple companies. Farmers often purchase from multiple companies to reduce risk, but one could easily end up purchasing the same genetic background from multiple companies.

Lastly, growers should verify the quality of all seed planted by sampling for cold germination. This will ensure the seeds you put in the ground can tolerate the stress of cool temperatures and high moisture conditions that are typical in the spring. Helping growers choose the right hybrids now will set you both to stay on course to a more successful New Year.

– Submitted by Brian Gardener, Ph.D. and Andy Paston, District Manager

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Diagram of a Seed Trench