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Making better corn hybrid choices

Smart producers are using the tools available on GoCorn.net.

 


February 21, 2009
By Treena Hein

Choosing a hybrid for the upcoming season is an important winter research project for corn producers. The information and software comparison tools made available by the Ontario Corn Committee (OCC) at GoCorn.net, in addition to hybrid performance information from industry, provide a great deal of help in this decision-making. Included on the site are “Hybrid Corn Performance Trials,” which feature data collected during the 2006, 2007 and 2008 growing seasons. These are identical to what is mailed out to producers, says Greg Stewart, corn industry program lead with the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs, and GoCorn.net contributor.

 

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According to Dr. Steven King, OMAFRA’s Corn Hybrid Selector is a useful tool, especially when used in concert with industry trial databases.

Under the “Tools and References” section, GoCorn.net also features the ‘1987-2007 Corn Hybrid Selector’ software tool. “This database contains information on yield, moisture and broken stalks,” says Stewart, “allowing farmers to see multi-site and multi-year averages on the hybrids they are interested in. It means farmers can go beyond just looking at a piece of paper with that year’s performance data on a certain hybrid. With this, you can look at how up to four hybrids went head-to-head under OCC trials over up to four years of testing.”


Stewart adds “This software program has been received very positively by the industry.”
Dr. Steven King, senior research manager at Pioneer Hi-Bred, observes that the Selector “simplifies hybrid comparisons.” He says traditional published tables can be cumbersome to interpret, even for analytical types of people, because of the huge amount of data they present.  
At the same time, King cautions, “Something that the OCC doesn’t really highlight is hybrid agronomic and disease tolerance characteristics. It’s not just about yield and moisture. You can have all the low-moisture and high yield performance in the world, but if the hybrid has a fatal flaw in one of its characteristics, then those other performance factors don’t matter.” He says some of the key measures Ontario producers should be looking at are stalk and root lodging resistance, stress emergence and Gibberella mould tolerance.


King therefore advises using industry trial databases, some of which are available online, in addition to the OCC data. “If I was a customer, I would want to look at all data out there and know the disadvantages and advantages of each. GoCorn.net is an effective way of presenting independent public trial data. While industry trial databases are not independent, they are much more extensive and include not only small plot performance but also on-farm strip testing and side-by-side comparisons, so there are much larger plots and more of them. They also include comparisons with key competitors in the marketplace, in terms of disease factors, yield, drying and much more.”
 
Calculating economic return
Under the “1987-2007 Corn Hybrid Selector” tool, producers will also find the “Economic Return Calculator.” This tool allows farmers to play out profit trade-off scenarios for hybrids of interest in terms of yield, harvest moisture, drying costs and seed cost. King says, “A tool like the Calculator is helpful. Farmers can use that data to make some guesses based on some scenarios to maximize profit per acre, which is the ultimate performance measure.”

Stewart observes “Some of the decisions about hybrids are huge. For example, do you want to spend a lot on a new hybrid with high yield that has a more expensive seed cost, or go with a less expensive seed with lower yield? When things like yield range versus seed costs are presented to the growers, they are quite surprised.” Stewart adds “It’s hard for producers to get a handle on how much difference seed cost and yield alone will make, and this tool allows them to factor in moisture content and drying costs as well.”

The cost of drying has continued to increase during the past decade, says Stewart, and this fall it is the highest it has ever been. “It is an interesting process for growers to evaluate yield versus drying costs,” he says. “Our analysis to date is that planting a shorter season hybrid in order to cut drying costs has often resulted in lower economic returns than what you could get with a full season hybrid,” Stewart adds. The calculator allows growers to input their own drying costs, yields and moistures to explore the options.


New updates were to be added as usual, to www.GoCorn.net in the fall of 2008. Those include drying costs, for example. Stewart notes “These costs are considerably higher than the last time the program was updated.”


Stewart and his colleagues also have plans for improvements and additions to the site, which will be presented as they are prepared.