Does mixing corn hybrids in the same field have any advantage? Fred Below, who is widely known in the Midwest as the University of Illinois professor researching how to achieve 300 bushel per acre average yields, said, “I hate 100 acres of the same hybrid in a field.”

Below said he agrees with farmers who put one hybrid in one side of their planter and another hybrid, even preferably a different brand, in the other side of their planter. “Corn would like to pollinate with another hybrid,” he said. That preference to pollinate with another hybrid is why some hybrids look better in a strip trial than when planted without any other hybrids around, he contends.

As for seed companies, they in general would like to see their brand of seed planted across a farmer’s entire farm, and support for Below’s concept isn’t real strong.

Spreading risk by planting more than one hybrid across a majority of a farm was important during this drought year, whether different hybrids were mixed in a field or were next to each other in 100-acre blocks.

Although seed company spokesmen say there were “not a lot of surprises” in how hybrids performed. Some hybrids were planted in situations other than where they should have been.

The seed companies report the variation in how a hybrid performed across a field based on changing soil type was quite obvious and exaggerated compared to more normal years. “The comment I’ve heard is how variable the results are within a field,” said Brent Wilson, DuPont Pioneer technical services manager.

Below noted there is a huge range of yield potential with every company’s hybrids, and he recommends that farmers have to ferret out the “dogs” using multiple sources of information from the company, universities, associations and cooperating farmers. 

“Value of hybrid selection is everything in a year like this one,” Below said. And when he says that, he is putting hybrid selection at about the same importance as having nitrogen availability to the corn during this drought year.

In any year, when Below describes the “seven wonders of the corn yield world,” he places weather as absolutely the most important factor. In a more normal year, than perhaps the worst drought in about 75 years across the Corn Belt, nitrogen availability and uptake is the second most important factor for yield. Typically weather and nitrogen account for more than half of the total yield.

The other five factors that interact with weather and nitrogen and among themselves to make the total yield in descending order of importance are hybrid selection, previous crop grown on the acres, plant population planted and resultant mature plants, tillage method appropriate for the soil and and finally growth regulators or limiting factors.

Below spoke at a media event sponsored by Koch Agronomic Services, LLC and the Agrotain line of fertilizers during the Farm Progress Show.