December 3, 2003
Purdue corn trials judged a winner despite weather
WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. Purdue University's annual corn performance trials proved once again that weather trumps crop science almost every time.
July storms and floods that ruined many Indiana cornfields destroyed a handful of Purdue test plot locations, as well. Fortunately, most plots were spared major damage and produced good yields, said Phil DeVillez, Purdue agronomist and field trial coordinator.
"We tested a couple hundred corn hybrids at 13 locations around the state," DeVillez said. "Weatherwise, we were like everybody else. We had good spots and poor spots. We lost four of our locations due to the heavy rainfalls. That was a little disappointing.
"But on the flip side, we saw some tremendous yields in the northern part of the state. In those northern areas some of our tests averaged more than 200 bushels per acre. In the south and central areas of Indiana, we were probably closer to 150 bushels per acre on average."
Those yield averages are as good or better than the state average this year. In November the U.S. Department of Agriculture estimated Indiana corn growers would produce an average of 150 bushels per acre.
Both conventional and genetically modified corn hybrids were included in the Purdue trial. Nearly 40 seed companies provided seed, which was planted on Purdue- and privately owned farms from near Lake Michigan to Evansville.
Field trial results are available in Purdue Extension Bulletin B-823, "Performance of Commercial Dent Corn Hybrids in Indiana, 2001-2003." The bulletin, which is intended to help Indiana farmers select the corn hybrids best suited for them, is available online. The Internet version comes in PDF and HTML formats.
Printed copies of B-823 are available by contacting DeVillez at (765) 494-0406.
For the first time, the field trial bulletin contains test plot data from three consecutive years. The bulletin also lists seed treatments used during the trials. The Web version includes links to participating seed companies.
Purdue's corn performance test is conducted uniformly at each location. Hybrids are planted in four-row plots, with only the middle two rows counted toward test data. Common fertilizer and tillage practices are used, and similar maturing varieties are tested together to ensure fair comparisons.
Because of early spring rain, 2003 test plots were planted as late as June 10 in southern Indiana. Harvest began in northern Indiana plots on Oct. 10 and wrapped up in southern plots on Oct. 31.
Test weights at the 13 trial locations ranged from 52 pounds per bushel to 63 pounds per bushel higher than the 51.3-56.4 pound range posted in the 2002 trial. Grain moisture levels ran slightly higher, as well, with a low of 15.2 percent and a high of 36.4 percent. Plant lodging varied from 0 percent to 43 percent, while stands were consistently between 85 percent and 95 percent.
In addition to conventional hybrids, Purdue agronomists tested new corn rootworm-resistant hybrids and varieties genetically modified to resist corn borer and Roundup applications.
"There's really not a difference in appearance between the Bt, Roundup Ready and conventional hybrids," DeVillez said. "In our trials we may see companies that have a conventional hybrid and a Bt version of that same hybrid. There might be a couple of days in maturity difference between them, but as far as the look and performance of the hybrid, you probably wouldn't be able to tell a single bit of difference except for the technology."
Purdue agronomists were especially interested in the hybrids with built-in corn rootworm protection, DeVillez said.
"The rootworm technology is one that everybody's talking about. I think it will save farmers a lot of money. Of course, you do have to pay for that technology," he said.
Although not every test plot survived the summer rains, the corn trials showed that seed companies continue to introduce better hybrids. And the best could be yet to come, DeVillez said.
"We haven't seen the limit on yield yet. I think they're still improving," he said. "These new technologies are adding bushels through defensive traits, but we're genetically still making gains based solely on raw yield standability.
"If you'd put the hybrids we had 20 years ago through the weather conditions that we had this year, I would expect most of those hybrids would have been flat on the ground."
Writer: Steve Leer, (765) 494-8415, firstname.lastname@example.org
Source: Phil DeVillez, (765) 494-0406, email@example.com
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