Tips for evaluating corn hybrid demo plots
This is the time of year when many farmers visit and evaluate hybrid demonstration plots planted by seed companies and county Extension personnel, among others. When checking out these plots, it’s important to keep in mind their relative value and limitations. The much later than normal corn plantings in 2011 may result in hybrid performance and responses to various to treatments (e.g. seeding rate, fertilizer rates) that are not be representative of a typical growing season - when crops are planted much earlier.
Demonstration plots may be useful in providing information on certain hybrid traits, especially those that are usually not reported in state corn performance summaries. The following are some hybrid characteristics to consider while checking out hybrid demo plots.
PLANT/EAR HEIGHT. Corn reaches it maximum plant height soon after tasseling occurs. Remember that although a big tall hybrid may have a lot of "eye appeal," it may also be more prone to stalk lodging in the fall. Unless your interest is primarily silage production, increasing plant height should not be a major concern. Generally later maturity hybrids are taller than earlier maturity hybrids. Big ears placed head high on a plant translate to a high center of gravity, predisposing a plant to potential lodging. The negative effects of stalk rot on stalk lodging in the fall may be worsened by high ear placement. Plots that have been subjected to early season (V7 or earlier) defoliation caused by hail or frost often have lower than normal ear height.
STALK SIZE. Generally speaking, a thicker stalk is preferable to a thinner one in terms of overall stalk strength and resistance to stalk lodging. As you inspect a test plot, you will see distinct differences among hybrids for stalk diameter. However, also check that the hybrids are planted at similar populations. As population increases stalk diameter generally decreases. Also keep in mind that uneven emergence and development, which affected many corn fields this year, may make such comparisons difficult because late emerging plants are “spindlier”.
DISEASES. During the grain fill period, leaf diseases can cause serious yield reductions and predispose corn to stalk rot and lodging problems at maturity. Ear rots can also impact yield and grain quality. The onset of leaf death shortly after pollination can be devastating to potential yield, since maximum photosynthetic leaf surface is needed to optimize grain yield. Hybrids can vary considerably in their ability to resist infection by these diseases. Demonstration plots provide an excellent opportunity to compare differences among hybrids to disease problems that have only occurred on a localized basis. Look for differences in resistance to northern corn leaf blight, gray leaf spot, and diplodia ear rot. Symptoms of these diseases and others are available online at the OSU Field Crop Disease Website (http://oardc.osu.edu/ohiofieldcropdisease/t01_pageview2/Home.htm)
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