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Monday, December 8, 2014

Advance Corn Hybrid Selection with New Trial Results

By Jeff Coulter, Extension Corn Agronomist

Results from the 2014 University of Minnesota corn grain performance trials are available at:  These trials were conducted at multiple locations to provide unbiased and replicated information on the performance of numerous hybrids.

When selecting hybrids, it is best to choose hybrids that perform well over multiple locations in a region. Consistent performance over multiple locations with different soil and weather conditions is critical because we cannot predict next year's growing conditions. A hybrid that performs well over multiple growing conditions in one year has a high potential for performing well in the same region next year.

To reduce risk, growers and their advisers are encouraged to select hybrids based on trial results from multiple sources, including universities, grower associations, seed companies, and on-farm strip trials. Results from replicated trials that include multiple entries from different companies are of particular importance.

Links to results from other corn trials:

Considerations for grain hybrid selection:

  • Hybrid selection begins with relative maturity (RM). Identify an acceptable maturity range based on the number of growing degree days (GDDs) required for a hybrid to reach physiological maturity (black layer). Selected hybrids should reach maturity at least 10 days before the first average freeze to allow time for grain dry-down and to provide a buffer against a cool year or late planting. Detailed information about the number of GDDs available for corn production for multiple locations and various planting dates, along with information on the relationship between GDDs and corn RM is available in the publication,  Selecting corn hybrids for grain production
  • Plant multiple hybrids of varying maturity to spread risk and widen the harvest interval. 
  • Very full-season grain hybrids do not consistently out-yield mid-season grain hybrids in Minnesota. There is more variability in grain yield among hybrids within a given RM group than there is between maturity groups. 
  • Hybrids also should be selected according to agronomic traits including emergence, root strength, disease tolerance, standability, and the need for transgenic resistance to insects and herbicides within a given production system. Standability is a key trait if higher seeding rates are used and if there are dry late-season conditions. 

Considerations for silage hybrid selection:

  • Longer-season hybrids tend to have higher silage yields. Hybrids planted for silage should generally be 5 to 10 days longer in RM than the hybrids planted for grain. However, these later-maturing hybrids may not be the best choice for a producer wanting early silage or the option to harvest the corn for grain. 
  • Select multiple hybrids with a range in RM, as this widens the harvest window. Harvesting at the correct moisture level is critical for producing high quality silage, and if missed, can negate the benefits of good hybrid selection. The importance of widening the harvest window is seen in years when corn dries rapidly under dry late-season conditions. Planting hybrids with a range in maturity also widens the pollination window, thereby reducing the risk that one's entire crop will experience hot and dry conditions during pollination. 
  • Other important agronomic considerations when selecting silage hybrids include herbicide and insect resistance for the given cropping system, and tolerance to drought and disease. Standability is less important for silage hybrids than grain hybrids due to the earlier time of harvest. 
  • Since corn silage is an energy source for livestock performance, producers should consider both silage quality and yield when selecting hybrids. Milk per ton is an overall indication of silage quality, and is estimated from forage analyses for crude protein (CP), neutral detergent fiber (NDF), NDF digestibility (NDFD), starch, and non-fiber carbohydrate. Once a suitable group of hybrids has been identified based on milk per ton and yield, further selection within this group can be based on specific forage quality and agronomic traits. Consult with a livestock nutritionist during the silage hybrid selection process to ensure that the selected hybrids will have the necessary nutritional value for your herd.

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