December 1, 2004 | By: Laura Skillman

Each winter, farmers begin the task of determining what varieties of corn and soybeans they will plant in the spring. Annual performance tests conducted by the University of Kentucky College of Agriculture are one tool farmers can use to aid these decisions.

Results of the 2004 field trials for corn and soybeans can be found at the UK Grain Crops Web site, Printed copies will be at county offices of the UK Cooperative Extension Service this month.

The objective of performance-testing programs is to provide data on seed sold in the state. Every effort is made to conduct the tests in an unbiased manner according to accepted agronomic practices.

Using the corn yield trial data is one source of information farmers can consider as they look to their seed needs for the coming year, said William Pearce, UK agronomist and corn trial coordinator. County test plots, company strip trials, their on-farm trials and university data from nearby states can also help farmers in making their selections.

Pearce encourages the farming community to look at some of the newer hybrids even if they believe a particular company is meeting their needs. One never knows what hybrid might fit into a farming operation.

“I encourage farmers to look at as much data as they can,” he said. “The more data you have the better informed you are and the decision making process becomes easier. We also encourage farmers to look at two and three year averages when possible.”

With high input costs, farmers need to maximize yields to maintain profitability, Pearce said.

In the corn testing trials, hybrids chosen were those most likely to be available in the coming year.  All corn was planted using no-till practices. The hybrids were tested in five categories: early (112 days or less), medium (113-117 days to maturity) and late (118 days or later) maturities and white and TC Blend High Oil hybrids. There were 116 yellow corn varieties, nine white corn and eight TC high oil corn varieties tested this year.

Each corn hybrid was grown at seven locations (four farm and three university sites) in three replications, except for high oil corn that was grown on three locations. For some hybrids two and three years’ worth of data is available.

Getting more than one or two years' of data on a particular corn or soybean variety can be difficult, said Eugene Lacefield, UK agronomist and soybean performance test coordinator. That’s because today, companies add new varieties to replace others at a rapid pace.

This year’s soybean trials included nearly 200 varieties of which the vast majority was Roundup Ready. This gives farmers an opportunity to select new varieties each year and keep on the cutting edge of varietal development. These tests were conducted at five locations with two replications and three maturity groups at each site. Some conventional, experimental and novel special-purpose varieties also were evaluated.

Lacefield said looking at a single location’s data is not a very valuable tool for farmers to consider when making a decision. He recommends they review the summary data that includes information on a variety’s performance average across years and locations.

“This gives them the best estimate of the yield potential of a variety,” he said.

By reviewing the variety trial data, a farmer can make a judgment on what variety to use to gain maximum yield and that translates into more money in his back pocket, Lacefield said.



Writer: Laura Skillman 270-365-7541 ext. 278
Source: William Pearce, 859-257-1874; Eugene Lacefield, 859-257-2993