How to Choose the Right Corn Hybrid

Farmers who select seed corn that best matches the soil in their fields can expect to see up to a 50-bushel-per-acre increase in yield, according to researchers. The best part? This increased yield comes without added input costs.

Of course, choosing the correct hybrid can be a difficult task, especially in light of the fact that there are more than 500 different corn hybrids available. Further, hybrids are cycling through faster than ever before.

Many researchers believe that evaluating soil types is a critical step in the complicated hybrid-selecting process. They say the key is to pay close attention to how particular corn varieties perform on certain acres of a farm by breaking fields into zones.

Once zones have been set, it is easier to see how particular varieties performed in different fields, environments and in light of specific practices such as crop rotation. It also helps to spread risk because there is a balance between hybrids with top-end yields and those that require late-season defensiveness or intactness.

Some farmers are reluctant to use this variable-rate seeding method, citing the difficulty of defining zones and having to choose the correct hybrid seed corn based on those zones. They also say that no two years are alike in terms of weather so what works in one zone one year might not work the same way the next.

These farmers believe it makes more sense to plant an entire field at what they believe will be the optimal rate for that field. At that point they could, for example, make one round down the center of an entire field and increase the population by a certain percentage. Any change detected on a yield map would mean raising the population for the whole field the next year, saving a great deal of time and effort while still getting an optimum yield.

No matter how farmers decide to proceed with seed selection, there are some basic principles that should always be adhered to.

  1. Consider data from multiple locations. Farmers should utilize data from across the country when it comes to seed selection. Unfortunately, many farmers focus only on their individual operation, causing them to miss out on a lot of valuable information.
  2. Continue to evaluate. Just because a hybrid has performed well in the past, it doesn’t mean it is going to continue to do so. Be wary of choosing a hybrid based only on its reputation.
  3. Focus on consistency. If a hybrid underperforms, find out why. Things like disease or soil types can play a part in underperforming hybrids
  4. Keep an eye on the price tag. More expensive hybrids don’t always mean higher yields. Make sure that the extra bushels you expect to see from a much more expensive hybrid will allow you to turn a profit on those extra bushels.