BLOOMER — Although the ground may be white and the air may be cold, many farmers are already thinking ahead to what they will be planting come spring. With unsure commodity prices, Joe Lauer, UW-Extension corn agronomist, discussed ways to pick corn hybrids and manage them to maximize yields at a Dec. 14 crop meeting in Chippewa County.
“If there is one thing that sets up your whole season, whether it be a soybean variety or a corn hybrid, it is (deciding which to plant),” Lauer said. “Increasingly right now, the management style that you have is dictated by the hybrid you pick.”
Lauer said using the resources provided by UW-Extension could help you when it comes to making the decision. For picking corn hybrids, he recommended looking at how they performed in the Extension and UW-Madison trials by using the 2017 Wisconsin Corn Hybrid Performance Trials book.
The book sorts all of the hybrids in the trials by company and then lists how they performed throughout the growing season. The results aim to provide an unbiased look at different hybrid varieties and allow farmers to compare them to other hybrids in subject areas including yield, similar genetics and growing time.
“I feel that I do my job if I can identify for you the top hybrids in a trial. All I want to do is identify the top 20 percent (in each trial). Then it is your job to go to the seed dealer and negotiate a price,” Lauer said.
Lauer said it is important to pick a hybrid that fits with the growing conditions of your farm location and pay attention to whether it is worth paying more for genetics that are not going to add enough to the yield to pay off.
He also discussed ways to improve the selected hybrid’s chance of growing successfully by considering how you can change your crop rotation.
“When you look at corn/soybean rotations, soybeans take everything from the soil and leave nothing; corn takes a lot from the soil, but leaves a lot of residue. You can build organic matter with corn, but the soybean year always brings it down a bit. When you can add a third crop to that system, it brings the yield of all those crops up,” Lauer said.
If it is not feasible to add another crop to the rotation, Lauer said to look at tillage practices.
“Soybeans don’t need tillage, but if you go to continuous corn, you need tillage. With the second year of corn, you see about a 5 percent yield decrease with no-till and with third year corn, you are at about 10 to 12 percent yield decrease,” Lauer said. “If you are rotating, you do not need tillage.”
“If the economic times warrant it, do some tillage out there, but we are going into a year that we are not going to have a lot of wiggle room and no-till is a way to reduce costs. You don’t need the horsepower and you can be a bit timelier on things, but it is not a skill you pick up right away. If you are going to try (no-till), try it on maybe one field to develop the skills,” Lauer said. “I always tell farmers though, don’t throw away your chisel plow because there might be some situations that you want it again, especially when corn becomes $5 to $6 a bushel again.”