Though growers can use harvest data to make decisions for next year's seed corn, a Purdue Extension corn specialist says they should look at a variety of field conditions before deciding on hybrids.
This year's crop experienced water stress on both ends of the spectrum, with early spring flooding and late-summer drought. Bob Nielsen said those conditions may not lead to a balanced view of hybrid performance.
"We all want to take those mental notes as we're harvesting, but it's important to be cautious about overreacting," he said. "Hybrid performance in a single field, good or bad, is only a single snapshot of its potential."
Nielsen said the top criterion for hybrid selection always is yield potential, but consistency of yield also is important. "Acceptable hybrids for your farm are those that exhibit high yields over a wide variety of growing conditions," he said.
"The hybrid doesn't have to win every trial, but it should be near the top of all of them."
Nielson said growers also should consider tolerance to stresses such as disease, drought and excess water. Seed companies typically will rate hybrids for resistance to gray leaf spot and northern corn leaf blight, two of the most important foliar diseases in Indiana.
Farmers can find yield data on university websites, including Purdue's multi-state database, the Purdue Crop Performance Program, at http://www.ag.purdue.edu/agry/PCPP/  .
Seed companies also publish variety trial information, and there also are independent research companies, including the Farmer's Independent Research of Seed Technologies, or FIRST trials.
"If this year's variety trial results are not yet available when you are ready to order hybrids for next year, do not hesitate to consult published results from the previous year," Nielsen said.
"Good hybrids, ones that tolerate a wide range of growing conditions, remain in the marketplace for several years." Once growers have looked at hybrid data, they will need to contact their seed representatives soon, Nielsen said.
With this year's crop stresses, seed companies may be short of popular varieties. "Seed companies suffered the same problems we all did," Nielsen said. "When farmers start to get serious about ordering seed for next year, they may be in short supply.
" Companies often will provide a rating on early season vigor, or how readily a stand will establish in cool or wet conditions. As always, the soil and location of the field determines many of the grower's needs, he said.
In addition to yield performance, consistency, disease and pest resistance, Nielsen said growers should consider personal preferences based on their equipment and storage needs.
Minor traits that farmers might consider include the strength of ear-to-stalk attachment and shelling ease during harvest.