Extension Ag Update
November/December 2007
Articles Research Resources Internet Links Ag Facts Education

Choosing Next Year's Crop

Ellen Phillips, Extension Educator-Crop Systems, 708-352-0109, ephillips@uiuc.edu

Choosing the right hybrid or variety is one of the most important steps in planning.  The typical corn hybrid is only in the market about three years, so evaluating new seed sources must be done every year.   Choosing the best genetics for your particular field conditions can add to your profit. 

Yield is not the only factor to consider. Planting conditions, seasonal weather, soil types, pests and other environmental conditions that can all influence yield.  It is important to compare yield information from several locations.  One should also consider maturity, lodging, stalk strength, disease and insect resistance, etc. Continuous corn rotations, especially in reduced tillage systems, are more likely to have a build up of disease organisms and therefore are at a greater risk for diseases such as diplodia, gray leaf spot, and stalk rots.   Disease resistance built into the hybrid is the easiest defense a farmer has in protecting yield.

Numerous sources of information exist for growers searching for the right traits to maximize their profit. Company trials, university trials and on-farm test strips offer insight into which hybrids can grow well across a many different environmental factors and growing conditions.  Performance trails typically list crop performance characteristics, such as emergence, maturity dates, yield, test weights, percent moisture and stalk lodging.   Some also report grain quality information for percent oil, starch and protein. Most performance trials show the “least significant difference” (lsd) value to indicate differences in that characteristic between hybrids or varieties.  If the difference between two hybrids is greater than the LSD value, then you can confidently state that the two hybrids are different in that characteristic.

Look at the differences between the best and worst hybrids in a trial. Hybrids vary a lot in their potential to adapt to stressful environmental conditions. There may be large differences across a maturity zone depending on local conditions. Weather significantly impacts pests and yields differently every year. When comparing trials, find out the local growing conditions for that year. Most importantly, use two- or three-year averages to make comparisons, since these are more reliable.

Homegrown information can be equally valuable. You and your neighbors experience in watching crops develop and using yield monitors to compare different hybrids in your environment is can be an important source of information.

Put field days on your calendar. Observing individual characteristics of a crop when it is growing is a great way to see differences. Contact your local corn or soybean associations for field day information. Visit your local University of Illinois research centers and ask to be on their mailing lists for research updates and field day information. 

Northern Illinois Agronomy Research Center, near DeKalb, 815-824-2029,
l-paul1@uiuc.edu; www.cropsci.uiuc.edu/research/rdc/dekalb/

Northwestern Illinois Agricultural Research and Demonstration Center, near Monmouth, 309-734-7459, adee@uiuc.edu;

Copies of 2007 University of Illinois Corn, Soybean, and Forage Variety Trials are available at local Extension offices.  Current and historical crop performance data from surrounding states are available at the following websites:

University of Illinois
Corn, Soybean, Small Grains, Forage Performance Testing
Varietal Information Program for Soybeans
- includes insect and disease resistance data

Ohio State University

Purdue University

Iowa Sate University

University of Wisconsin