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Short season corn hybrids see potential after testing
By DOROTHY NOBLE
HOLTWOOD, Pa. (Dec. 2, 2014) — Attendees at Cover Crop Solutions field day in late October got a chance to inspect Steve Groff’s research with short season hybrid corn.
Groff, a cover crop pioneer, has been sharing the results of cover cropping at his Cedar Meadow Farm for 20 years.
An objective with the short season trial was to evaluate performance in his geographic area.
The plots of four T.A. Seeds hybrids of varying harvest dates were on display for growers to compare the condition of cover crops which were planted after harvest.
Data on the yields plus the dates of corn planting, harvest and cover crop planting were posted at the site.
In front of one of his 83-day hybrids, Taylor A. Doebler, III, owner of T. A. Seeds, told the crowd that his father planted 115-day corn.
Doebler said that corn genetics have advanced a good deal since his father’s generation. He stressed that there is still a mindset for the late corn, but in general growers do not need late varieties.
Randy Ringler, Cover Crop Solutions consultant, observed that farmers need to be convinced of the economic payback for short season varieties.
Doebler said that short season corn is not meant to be planted late. It matures faster, and flowering before hot weather is important. “It’s not used to heat during flowering,” Doebler explained. Some of the early corns can’t stand any heat, he added.
“Don’t treat 74-day corn the same as 83-day corn,” Cory Chelko emphasized. At Cedar Meadow Farm, the 74-day corn yielded 152 bushels per acre this season. The 83-day variety produced 214 bushels per acre.
Doebler noted that this season’s degree days were 200 units behind.
David Huffman, also with T. A. Seeds, pointed out that growers must decide each year what works for their particular needs. Drawing on his background in research and development and noting a variety with flint corn in its genetics, ‘Huffy’ noted that genetic background needs to be considered when determining what is best for a farm’s particular objectives.
A third-generation seedsman, Doebler advised that when selecting hybrids, look at genetics before the traits.
In a subsequent webinar, Groff pointed to the advantages of planting shorter season hybrids, both for the earlier harvest and for the opportunity to plant the cover crop earlier.
As the harvest progresses, an initial higher cash price for grain typically declines.
Groff received $8.64 in 2012 for his 83-day corn that yielded 183 bushels per acre.
“Short season genetics have advanced,” Groff said. Recognizing that growers in the north face a wall, he told them that in his Southeastern Pennsylvania location, short season corn shows promise. “You may want to try them in your region,” Groff suggested.
The advantages of planting cover crops earlier include better erosion control, more nitrogen scavenging and more nitrogen production if legumes are planted.
Also potential losses due to adverse fall weather can be avoided.
One day in September equals four or five days in October, Groff says. “As days in the fall tick away,” Groff notes, “We start losing opportunities of which species we can plant.”
Groff emphasizes treating cover crops like cash crops. “Get things done on time,” he urges. Planting the cover crops immediately after harvest is ideal. The costs of seed and time are identical regardless of when planted.
Looking at the big picture, the benefits of investing in better soil, Groff says, can be observed best in stressful years.
Groff provided several tips for planting short season hybrids and following with cover crops: choose hybrids with a knowledgeable seedman’s advice; make sure that the disease package is appropriate for your area; harvest the corn when ready, noting that it may dry faster than you have been accustomed; have a plan, including being ready with the seed, equipment and personnel.
The website, www.covercropsolutions.com, includes information on the field day and links to the webinar.