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Tips in Selecting Your ’04 Hybrids

Sunday, January 18, 2004
filed under: Hybrid Selection/Planting

Here are some tips in evaluating hybrid performance data, and in selecting hybrids for 2004.

Yield—Performance averaged over many tests is called “yield stability.” Good yield stability means that a hybrid may or may not be the best yielder at all locations, but that it does rank high in yield potential at many locations. A hybrid that ranks in the upper 20% at all locations exhibits better yield stability than one that is the top yielder at two locations, but ranks in the lower 40% at two other locations.

Oil content/composition— Select a high-oil hybrid over a low -oil hybrid with the same yield potential, but don't sacrifice yield in favor of oil content. The oilseed sunflower market pays a premium based on market price for over 40% oil (at 10% moisture) and discounts for oil less than 40%. Evaluate the dependability or consistency of a hybrid to make NuSun™ quality. A number of seed companies offer guarantees for mid-oleic NuSun levels, between 55-75%.

Maturity— When comparing hybrids, use the maturity rating to make sure you are comparing apples to apples. Be realistic of your expected planting date, and mindful of the average killing frost in your area. Later-maturing hybrids generally yield higher than early hybrids. Maturity is especially important if planting is delayed. Often, with delayed planting, only an early hybrid will mature and exhibit its full yield potential. Yield, oil content, and test weight often are reduced when a hybrid is damaged by frost before it is fully mature. An earlier hybrid will likely be drier at harvest than a later hybrid, thus reducing drying costs. Consider planting hybrids with different maturity dates as a production hedge to spread risk, drydown and workload.

Moisture content—Harvesting sunflower at higher moisture contents may reduce bird damage and seed shattering loss during harvest. Seed must then be dried to 10% or less for storage.

Disease tolerance—The most economical and effective means of sunflower disease control is the planting of resistant or tolerant hybrids, and a minimum of three to four years rotation between successive sunflower crops. Most sunflower hybrids have resistance to Verticillium wilt, races 1 and 2 of downy mildew, and two or more races of rust. Consult the seed company for information on the reaction of a particular hybrid to these and other diseases that may pose a risk in your growing area.

Self-pollination (or self-compatibility), recommended to be at least 90%, is another trait to keep in mind. It refers to the ability of the plant to pollinate itself despite unfavorable conditions for pollination.

Marketability— Multi-purpose hybrids that have flexibility in several markets have become popular with producers. Assess what market or combination of markets may give you the best price for your ‘flowers.

Serviceability—Companies and seed dealers provide different services, policies, and purchase incentives. Determine what services you need, such as credit, delivery, and return policy.

2003 Sunflower Hybrid Performance Results

More test locations and more complete results of sunflower yield trials conducted in 2003 in cooperation with USDA, university researchers, and private seed companies in North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas, and Colorado are available on the NSA website Click on the “Growers” link, then “yield trials.” The trials are presented as PDF files, read by Adobe Reader, which can be downloaded for free at

Following are other sources of public sunflower hybrid performance information available online. Some sites have not yet posted online performance trial information data from the 2003 growing season, but will soon.

North Dakota State University Research and Research Extension Centers

South Dakota State University Crop Variety Trial Information

Colorado State University Sunflower Page

Kansas State University Research & Extension Crops and Soils Library

University of Nebraska sunflower testing results

More Clearfield Varieties to be Released in ‘04

More Clearfield™ hybrids will be available for planting in 2004; consult with your seed companies about availability.

Clearfield sunflower is conventionally bred sunflower resistant to imazamox herbicide (Beyond) for control of a wide array of grassy and broadleaf weeds. The Clearfield technology was developed by BASF. See a report and grower experiences with Clearfield in the Dec. 03 issue of The Sunflower, also online at Click on the “Sunflower Magazine” link, then “View Archives,” and finally “hybrid selection/planting.”

Making Sense of Hybrid Statistics

Expected mean in plot trial information refers to the average performance number for a particular trait of all hybrids evaluated in the trial.

The coefficient of variability (C.V. %) often listed at the bottom of a table is a relative measure of the amount of variation or consistency recorded for a particular trait, expressed as a percentage of the mean. Generally, trials with low C.V. rates are more reliable for making hybrid choices than trials with higher C.V. rates. Trials with C.V. rates below 15-20% are generally considered to be reliable for comparing yield.

To accurately determine if one hybrid is better than another for a given trait, use the least significant difference value (LSD 5%) at the bottom of the table. This is a statistical way to indicate if a trait such as yield differs when comparing two hybrids. If two hybrids differ by more than the indicated LSD 5% value for a given trait, they would most likely differ again when grown under similar conditions. If two hybrids differ by less than the LSD for a particular trait, than there’s no statistical difference.

For example, if a performance trial table indicates one hybrid yielded 2,600 lbs/acre, compared to another hybrid in the same plot that yielded 2,310 lbs/acre, and the LSD for this particular plot trial data is 407 lbs/acre, there is no statistical difference in yield between the two varieties.

In another example, if the oil content percentage for one hybrid is 44 compared to 41 for another, and the LSD is 2.3, the first hybrid can be expected to have a higher oil content than the second hybrid, under similar growing conditions.

Give more weight to information from trials or fields close to your particular growing area. It’s best to compare relative performance over many years and locations. Consult with an agronomist or your local seed dealer for more specific hybrid information.

Selecting Sunflower Hybrids:

What Seed Company Reps Recommend

The way I see it, a grower needs to identify his most likely market first. Is it confection, oil, dehull or bird food? Each option has a different set of requirements. Some things to keep in mind:

Confection: Size of seed over a 20 sieve, and is the hybrid desired by the processors? Maturity, agronomic traits, yield, and test weight are important considerations.

Oil: Percent oil content, NuSun, linoleic or oleic, yield, maturity, agronomics. With high prices, oil content and potential premiums are a major factor to consider.

Dehull: Acceptability in the market place, other potential fits in the marketplace, agronomics.

Bird food: Availability of a market, other potential fits in the marketplace, agronomics.

– Bruce Due, Fargo district agronomist, Mycogen Seeds

The bottom line is still largely about yield, based on the simple fact that this is the variable that drives profits. Obviously the growers still evaluate oil percentage and dry down, but yield is still a huge factor in hybrid selection. We are still seeing fairly good demand for conventional oil hybrids, some of which have a proven record of performance, but we certainly expect to see the trend continuing towards NuSun hybrids. I think it's important that growers understand what hybrids fit which markets or end use requirements, and decide which market they are pursuing. Then, look at the growing region and determine which hybrid is suitable for maturity. – Mark Vandaele, Vanseed (a distributor for Kaystar Brand Sunflowers in North Dakota)

The most important trait is oil per acre, which is % oil x yield. This can really impact the overall net return on sunflower . At 50% oil and $12 new crop price the return price becomes $14.40. It takes into account both yield and oil, and gives a good value as to how to rate both. Also, consider which hybrids are most likely to sell into which markets: NuSun, high oleic, bird seed, hulling, traditional, confection. NuSun can make NuSun, bird seed, hulling. Traditional cannot make NuSun quality. Agronomic traits are important such as stalk and root strength, head attitude, dry down, maturity, disease resistance, insect resistance. New traits such as Clearfield can be very important to some farmers. Appearance and harvestability are also factors some farmers consider; for example, a hybrid that can be combined at a faster speed. – John Swanson, product manager, Croplan Genetics

It has always been my belief that it is in growers’ best interest to minimize risk by diversifying not only the crops they grow but also the hybrids or cultivars within a given crop. Selecting more than one hybrid can allow producers to take advantage of the various market segments that exist within the sunflower industry, and also to help manage production risks like early frost, drought and disease pressure. Yield is always going to be the primary driver in the decision-making process, but other factors should not be overlooked.

2003 was a year that reminded growers across the Northern Plains that late season standability, drought tolerance and early maturity are important characteristics to look for in a sunflower hybrid. This past year we also had some hot pockets for downy mildew disease. Hybrids are available that exhibit resistance to the common races of downy mildew. There are many other traits such as oil content, plant height and harvest drydown that should be considered. The important thing to remember is that hybrid selection is a critical piece to the crop production puzzle which deserves a great deal of thought and scrutiny. – Craig Rystedt, technology development manager, Monsanto/Dekalb.

Here are the points that I point out:

1. If you plant oils, plant only NuSun Hybrids. If you plant traditionals you lose your bargaining power for higher prices.

2. Sunflowers are adapted to a wide range of environments. Look at many plots (public and private) and find the hybrids that have the best percent of yielding over the plot mean. 70% or better.

3. Plant Cruiser-treated seed. You only need 50 lbs of seed to pay for the treatment. Insect protection and early seedling vigor provided by Cruiser will yield you a lot more than 50 lbs.

4. Don’t forget that seed is just one part of the planting equation. Your planter (including its condition and calibration), seeding depth, seed-to-soil contact, and early-season weed and insect control are all factors that influence stand establishment and yield.

– Max Dietrich, district sales manager, Proseed

Grow hybrids that historically do well on your farm or have performed well in local strip or replicated trials. Pick something that fills the hopper fast and look at the oil premium as a bonus. High oil is nice, but don’t trade in too much yield to get it. 2,000 lb flowers at 40% oil is still worth more than 1,800 lb flowers at 45% oil. Yield is the critical part of the profit equation.

Good trial data is important for hybrid selection but don’t forget about basic agronomics like stalk strength and drydown. Farms are getting bigger and harvest is taking longer in many cases, so selecting something with a good stalk that holds up late in the fall is a very good idea. Poor drydown will also delay harvest and expose your crop to tough late season weather conditions.

Also be aware of your markets. Today’s sunflower grower has several. If you want to include the hulling market as an option, be sure to grow a hybrid that is suitable for that market. Several seed companies have hybrids they can recommend. Buyers of oilseed for hulling want big seed that hulls easily with minimal insect damage. Not all crushers are accepting both NuSun and regular oil sunflowers, so the convenience of having NuSun versus traditional oil seed

is also beginning to factor in on hybrid selection. Also check with your local elevators to see if they plan on accepting both NuSun and regular oils. – Mike Hagen, sunflower manager,

Interstate Seed

In recent years, a number of growers in the Northern Plains have moved away from growing sunflowers in favor of herbicide-tolerant soybeans and canola. Sunflower's ability to compete for acres has improved, however. Strong nearby and new crop bids lend sunflower an advantage over other crops. New hybrids also offer growers multiple opportunities like NuSun, birdfood and dehull to market their sunflower. Growers should consider hybrids that have this market flexibility, and what processors are looking for. For example, some oilseed processors are buying only NuSun and only NuSun new crop contracts are being offered.

The management gap between the crops is also narrowing. There used to be fewer pest concerns to worry about with soybeans, for example, but that has changed with the growing concern of cyst nematode, aphids, iron chlorosis, and herbicide-resistant weeds. Newly approved sunflower labels like Cruiser for seedling insects and Clearfield hybrids give growers new tools to reduce risk and add value to their sunflower crop. Sunflower also tolerates drier conditions better than soybeans and other crops, with roots that can tap into deep soil nitrogen left behind by other crops. So there are good, solid reasons for producers to consider sunflowers on some of their ’04 crop acreage. – Kevin Wall, sales manager, Seeds 2000

For a list of seed suppliers and seed company web sites, a number of which also list hybrid performance trial results from 2003, go to Click on the link “Growers” then “Seed Suppliers/Buyers,” and then “Hybrid Seed Suppliers.”

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