Hybrid hunting

Producers who are considering planting corn for the first time will have lots to choose from in the corn hybrid market. Growing corn in North Dakota can be less troublesome than other less disease-resistant crops, according to North Dakota State ...

Producers who are considering planting corn for the first time will have lots to choose from in the corn hybrid market. Growing corn in North Dakota can be less troublesome than other less disease-resistant crops, according to North Dakota State University extension agronomist Joel Ransom.

Disease resistance is an issue, but not to the same degree as with some other crops, he says, while standability and ear-drop normally are a problem only under very dry conditions.

"Generally, I would say that most of the hybrids we see today don't have a disease problem," says Ransom, who recently held an interactive video meeting for corn producers.

Maturity is key

The trick to raising corn in North Dakota is to plan ahead of time for relative maturity and dry-down.


"For us in the North, maturity becomes very critical, because at the end of the day, you've got to be able to put the corn in the bin," he says.

It is important to get corn into dry-down mode while there still is some warm weather to do the drying.

"Keep to the recommended maturity level," he says. "A good rule of thumb is in most years, by Nov. 1, we will not have substantial dry-down in the field, so what you see Nov. 1 is what you will see Nov. 30."

Planting dates also play into the maturity-moisture equation. Obviously, the earlier the seed gets into the ground, the earlier it likely is to reach maturity and begin dry-down.

"Everyone should ask themselves how far they can push their maturity to get yield and, at the same time, end up with a dry enough grain to make better profit," he says.

Dry-down still needed after combining can significantly lower per-bushel returns.

"If you're new to corn and don't have a dryer, then you need to have another strategy," Ransom says.

Hauling it to the elevator for drying, provided it has a dryer, can run about 4 cents per bushel per percentage point of moisture. This means drying corn from 25 percent moisture down to 15 percent, for example, will cost 40 cents a bushel.


"So you may want to be a little more conservative in your lateness (of maturity) in those kinds of scenarios," Ransom says.

GMO traitsRansom says there are three primary genetically modified traits now available: European corn borer control, corn rootworm control and herbicide tolerance.

"A lot of these will be incorporated into the major brand names like Dekalb, but some of the secondary seed hybrid companies will license those in," he says.

YieldGard and Agrisure both produce the same protein that kills both European and Southwest corn borers, as well as the Southern stalk borer, so any hybrid with the YieldGard corn borer or Agrisure corn borer traits would provide identical protection, also suppressing corn earworms, fall armyworms and the common stalk borer.

"Herculex does have a little bit broader activity," he says.

The Herculex product controls both corn borers, the western bean cutworm, fall armyworms and black cutworms, while suppressing corn earworms. Choosing what might work best in any given field will require knowledge of the conditions there.

"It depends on how problematic the fall armyworm and the black cutworm is," he says. "If you rarely ever see those insects, it becomes a moot point it doesn't matter. They're going to both be effective against the European corn borer."

Controlling rootworm will be more of a concern for some.


"There are three different sources of rootworm traits, and they do produce slightly different toxins," Ransom says. "They all provide excellent control of the rootworms, though there might be some slight differences in ratings that might be noted."

Stacking traitsThere are nine different traits that are commercially available in corn, with others in development. When a single hybrid is given more than one of these traits, it is called stacking.

"They call them double-stacked when you get two of those traits together or

triple-stacked when you get three of them together," Ransom says.

For example, triple-stacked traits are corn hybrids that have been genetically instilled with the ability to withstand three separate threats to corn, typically rootworms, corn borers and glyphosate herbicide. This can translate to bottom-line input savings in cost and effort but not necessarily.

"An interesting study was done in Minnesota, looking at yield trials of hybrids with and without traits," he says.

They found that there were some hybrids without any traits in them that were as high-yielding or higher than those that had the triple-stacked traits, he says.

"The seed companies would like you to buy triple-stacked because that's their best stuff," he says. "It's got everything that you'll ever want."


There are some discounts available with multiple-stacked traits, he says.

"Monsanto could not quote a price on Roundup Ready only or any single-trait products for rootworm or corn borer. This was an eye-opener for me," he says.

But the company charges just $9 an acre when it stacks rootworm protection with the Roundup Ready, and the reason is simple, according to the NDSU agronomist.

"We don't have a rootworm problem in North Dakota and they want you to buy the trait, so this is the way they're doing it they're bundling it with Roundup Ready."

But so what?

"Even at a $5 savings (for non-GMO seed), is the convenience of the Roundup Ready system worth it to you?" he asks. "It may well be. And it might be that you have less yield loss with the RR because you have less injury."

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