The Sharp Edge: Selecting the right hybrid for the farm, with Ken Ferrie

Each year, corn hybrid selection is a balancing of growing conditions, field selection, and in-field management that can bring up some tough questions to navigate when chasing big yields.

On this episode of The Sharp Edge, Maizex agronomist Greg Stewart tackles these questions with with help from Illinois-based Crop-Tech Consulting agronomist Ken Ferrie. Together, they discuss different field environments, including soil, water-holding capacity, weather and fertility. They also review hybrid characteristics and how best to match them to growing conditions.

When it comes to picking a hybrid, the first thing to consider is leaf structure, says Ferrie. Hybrids that are more upright in structure tend to have more horsepower and produce higher yields because of their ability to collect more sunlight. Hybrids with more pendulum leaf structure tend to be more defensive and protective when it comes to water and yield.

Ferrie notes that pendulum hybrids tend to capture more sunlight early in the season while upright hybrids capture more sun later in the season during grain fill and can drive yield with higher populations. However, the water and nutrients have to be there during the late season “to back that up,” he adds.

In the video, Stewart and Ferrie discuss several different growing environments and how individual farm characteristics — from soil type to the risk of running out of water — can impact hybrid choice.  (Story continues after the video.)

After considering leaf structure, Ferrie says growers should also understand how hybrids flex. He notes that some hybrids flex in kernel number, length and girth, while others flex in kernel depth.

When it comes to managing hybrids that flex in kernel depth and mass, Ferrie notes that this flex tends to happen in the last 30 days of grain fill. Growers wanting to optimize these hybrids need good late-season moisture and need to keep the plant alive and green well into black layer. In this case, late-season nitrogen and fungicide applications and irrigation are management options.

When it comes to managing hybrids that flex in kernel number, Ferrie says many of these hybrids tend to flex in girth so it’s important to protect the plant from emergence up to about V6 or kernels could be lost. For hybrids that flex in length, he notes that it’s important to “make sure the plant is happy through the rapid growth stage.”

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