Choosing hybrids? It pays to be picky

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COLUMBUS – Corn yield potential has increased as much as 2.5 percent per year over the past half-century because of genetic improvements in hybrids.
But getting the most out of a crop’s performance involves more than just relying on advances in agricultural research.
Every farm different. Peter Thomison, an Ohio State University Extension agronomist, said that hybrid selection is driven by farm production: corn acreage, soil type, tillage practices, desired harvest moisture and insect and disease pressures, just to name a few.
And with some forgotten corn diseases on the rise and value-added opportunities expanding, selecting the right hybrids is becoming more important.
Niche hybrids. “With old diseases coming back, increasing marketing opportunities and new issues that arise, new opportunities present themselves for producing certain hybrid characteristics,” Thomison said.
For example, certain corn hybrids are earmarked for ethanol production in Ohio and the niche market of silage production.
Additionally, growers are being encouraged to seek hybrids that show resistance to plant diseases that had been pushed to the back burner by genetic improvements.
“The most important situations with hybrid selection involve growers choosing more resistant varieties to diseases like northern corn leaf blight and diplodia ear rot,” said Pat Lipps, an Ohio State University research plant pathologist with the Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center.
“We’ve seen a significant increase in the state over the past four to five years of both diseases,” Lipps said. “Not all hybrids available have good resistance, so a grower has to ask for them.”
What to check. In addition to choosing hybrids based on disease resistance, Thomison said growers also should consider the following factors in hybrid selection and management:

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