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Seed Shopping Checklist

Pam Smith
By  Pam Smith , Crops Technology Editor
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Assessing hybrids and varieties now helps plan for the coming season. Brian Wood, of Raymond, Illinois, depends on seed representative Dave Wallner to help him sort through the maze of new numbers. (DTN Photo by Pamela Smith)

RAYMOND, Ill. (DTN) -- Push past the corn leaf cuts and the itchy pollen. It's worth it to wade beyond the end rows and take a hard look at your corn crop right now, said Brian Wood.

Wood and his seed advisor, Dave Wallner, have been scouting fields all year long. At this time of year they look for red flags prior to harvest and gather details to place hybrids for next year. Yield is the bottom line, but general plant health, standability, and how various numbers withstood the stress of the season all factor into making decisions, Wallner said.

Seed companies rolled out the red carpet this week at Farm Progress Show and similar fall field days are a good way to take a look at what's new on the market. However, there's no substitute for taking a hard look at how hybrids perform in your fields, Wood said.

So far, it has been easy to see the influence planting date had on his crop. In the area where he farms at Raymond, Illinois, nature provided two distinct planting periods. The early corn was planted during the April 12-20 timeframe. Then rain locked him out until mid-May. Some replanting was required.

"We're seeing some tip-back in the early planted corn due to heat during pollination," Wood said. "But we had better stands in those early planted fields and the test weight, it's going to be better than the late-planted corn." He's also noticed some zippered ears -- where whole rows are missing on one side of the ear.

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Wood hopes some recent rains and cooler weather will help add weight to those bushels and may help some of the later-planted corn avoid some kernel abortion. He has seen a few ears of diplodia showing up this fall, too, but he's not overly concerned about it at the levels he saw so far.

As Wood and Wallner assess hybrids, they look at general plant health and how that hybrid has weathered conditions.

Wood looks to trim costs where possible and that's where Wallner's knowledge of what hybrids respond to specific management practices helps. "We don't want to do anything at the expense of yield," Wood said. "However, we are definitely looking at every hybrid with an eye toward return on investment rather than simply top yield."

Wood's crop is primarily corn-on-corn and certain hybrids fit that scenario better. He generally needs a SmartStax variety to push back against western corn rootworm and that's an input he's not willing to give up on most acres.

"We're looking at every input -- from fertilizer to specific nutrients -- with more scrutiny these days," he said. "We may look harder at no-till beans and throw some of them in to avoid the cost of working ground, for example."

Wallner sells Channel Seed, but he and independent agronomist, Jack Hardwick, operate Advanced Seed Solutions from Pleasant Plains, Illinois. This third-party agronomy portion of the business appeals to Wood. This also means he's not afraid to weave other seed brands into his operation where they fit, as well.

"These hybrids only stay around for a couple of years and it's important to have people that know the hybrids and understand my growing conditions to lean on," Wood added.

Tips for checking out test plots from Purdue University's Bob Nielsen can be found here: http://bit.ly/….

A good shopping list of what to look at when evaluating corn hybrids comes from Peter Tomison, The Ohio State University. He provides a checklist of what to look for and questions to ask when evaluating corn hybrid demonstration plots here http://bit.ly/….

Pamela Smith can be reached at Pamela.smith@dtn.com

Follow her on Twitter @PamSmithDTN

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