In Selecting Silage Hybrids, It’s Best to Test

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Selecting the right corn hybrid is often the difference between break even and making a profit.

Selecting hybrids for silage production depends somewhat on whether a field is planned specifically for silage or grain (dual purpose). Silage types should have high forage yields and high digestibility, low fiber levels, and stover that is highly digestible. The best silage types have high grain yields because grain is so highly digestible. However, ranking for top-yielding hybrids used for silage may vary based on differences in fiber digestibility and grain-to-stover ratio.

A dual-purpose hybrid should have both high grain and forage yields. For both scenarios, hybrid selection should start with identifying a group of hybrids that are adapted to the area in terms of maturity, disease and insect resistance, and drought tolerance.

New hybrids may not necessarily be superior in local areas, even though their average performance over a wider region is superior. Conducting a performance test on your farm or in cooperation with neighbors using similar management practices can help in selecting the best hybrids for your operation. The following list outlines the basic principles used in setting up and evaluating on-farm tests.

  • Selecting hybrids. When selecting hybrids, limit the number of hybrids to no more than 10 and include two or three well-known check hybrids. Select hybrids of similar maturity.
  • Blocking. Choose a uniform area in the field. Divide the area into three blocks of equal sizes. Plant one plot of each hybrid per block, arranging the hybrids in a different order in each block.
  • Plot size. Optimum plot size will depend on the size of uniform land area, the number of hybrids and the size of the equipment. Typically, 1/10 of an acre is enough for most tests. Plots should be similar in size and border areas should be used at edges of the field.
  • Management. Manage each plot identically, keeping conditions as similar as possible to the conditions that normally occur on your farm.
  • Record keeping. Keep accurate and up-to-date records. Walk the area every few weeks during the season. Note obvious strengths and weaknesses of the hybrids plus any problems with the test. Weigh the yield of each plot, take a moisture sample and adjust yields to the same moisture content.
  • Analysis. Calculate the averages over the three blocks to compare hybrids. A well-conducted test will have small differences among plots of the same hybrid and some large differences between hybrid averages. When evaluating hybrids, consider all important traits such as lodging, disease and insect resistance, and drought tolerance and not just yield.
  • On-going testing. Data collected from one field in one year may be misleading. Before planting hybrids on large acreages, collect data over two to three years and check reliable sources for more information. One year's data may be adequate to discard poor hybrids from the test. Replace discarded hybrids with new hybrids the following year.

Original article written by the University of Wisconsin Forage Team.



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