As we inch closer to another planting season, you most likely have already purchased your seed. Odds are this decision was based on some criteria; whether that be price, performance, or the recommendation from a trusted agronomist. Although selection is important, now is the time for the most crucial seed decision; proper product placement. This decision is one you will live with for the rest of the year and will drive the opportunity to maximize the hybrid’s genetic potential and net income per acre.
There is an old joke that the most important traits of any hybrid are yield, yield…and yield. But there is far more to placement than just putting seed in the ground to reach a hybrid’s yield potential. There are characteristics that can make the same hybrid yield extremely well in one field and very poorly in another. Let’s walk through some of the considerations that should be used to get proper seed placement.
SOILS & GROWING ENVIRONMENT
Soil type and CSR are the first place to start with any hybrid, as these factors will have the biggest impact on yield potential. But which hybrid would you place in tight clay or sandy soils? Plot data alone can be unhelpful in deciding which hybrid is best for less-than-ideal soil conditions, as plots are usually placed on good, consistent soils. Some of the best hybrids on the market don’t do well in poorly drained soils. A hybrid may not excel in a plot, yet can handle sandy fields extremely well. This is where an experienced agronomist can supply the missing information that can take an average or subpar year from disappointing to promising. Understanding the best hybrid placement for your soils should be the first critical decision your seed specialist should help you consider. Their expertise can be the difference in a disappointing year for everyone else but an above-average year for you.
Every hybrid responds to population differently; some flex, while others have a fixed ear. Population density can also affect agronomic traits like roots and stalks. A hybrid that statistically yields well at a higher population may also carry risks that are not illustrated by yield versus population alone. Our ProVantage precision service, combined with Winfield’s R7 data set and good old-fashioned boots on the ground is where we can make the difference in putting the right hybrid at the right rate, while still taking all other factors into consideration.
Every grower farms differently; no two people reading this article do everything exactly the same. Some farming practices, like forms of nitrogen or type of closing wheels may not greatly affect hybrid decisions or performance. But other decisions like no-till and continuous corn could greatly affect how a hybrid performs. No-till requires a hybrid with great early vigor, especially if it’s among the first planted. Continuous corn obviously needs a rootworm trait and/or insecticide treatment. But that alone may not be enough to maximize the hybrid or the farm’s potential. Managing for those differences not accounted for in plot data can greatly impact a hybrid’s effectiveness on your farm.
Each hybrid has a set of elements that make it very different from the rest; characteristics like drought and disease tolerance, plant/ear height, stalk strength, and GDUs to silk. Another way to use characteristic scores to help with planting strategy is to look at early vigor in relation to planting plans. Are you planning on planting a hybrid that prefers warmer soils as your first field?
We normally don’t think too much about field location when planning hybrid placement. Please consider field location if you are planting a hybrid that you know is weak on a specific disease or needs late-season nitrogen. How often are you going to be checking on that field if it is off the beaten path? Every grower seems to have at least one field that’s harder to get to. Place one of those go anywhere, low maintenance-type hybrids there, and keep the numbers you want to watch more closely where you are more likely to have eyes on them.
This ties in to all of the other factors mentioned above. As you finish your planting strategy, you should have a good head start on your harvest plans. It sounds crazy, but we know there are hybrids you need to harvest early while others have amazing late-season standability and can wait until the beans are out. Where you plant each of these hybrids can greatly affect their yield, especially if that yield is on the ground instead of in the bin.
Spring reminds me of Mike Tyson’s most famous quote.
“Everybody has a plan until they get punched in the mouth.”
If you have farmed for even a single season, you have been punched in the mouth. We have all grabbed the first bag we could find and thrown it into the planter, then regretted it all year. Take the time to get the right product planned for each field. Your wallet will thank you at harvest.