Hybrid Selection: A Grower Perspective
By Kevin Capistran*
1. Decide which characteristics are “must haves.” For example:
• Contract specifications or market choices dictate whether you need a confection type, hulling suitability, NuSun, high oleic, etc.
• Hybrid maturity must be appropriate for your farm.
• For me, herbicide tolerance and above-average head rot tolerance are “must haves.” For others, it could be things like plant height, high oil content, or rust or downy mildew resistance.
These are “black and white” items. Depending on how many “must haves” are on your list, you may be left with a limited number of hybrids from which to choose.
2. About 75% of my acres will be planted to hybrids I’m familiar with and have had success with on my farm.
3. Plant your own strip trials. A few extra hours at planting and harvest can be well worth it.
4. Seek yield data from multiple locations and years. We’ve heard this a hundred times, but it is sound advice. You are looking for yield stability.
5. Not all yield trials are pertinent to your situation. Rely on the trials that best fit your situation. Look at trials with similar geography, tillage practices, irrigation scenarios. Make sure the trial wasn’t influenced by extreme weather, disease or insects.
6. Think “dollars per acre,” not just “pounds per acre.” Consider oil content or seed size premiums.
7. Some characteristics could help lower production costs. For example, an earlier hybrid can mean lower drying costs or less bird damage. Herbicide tolerance traits give a different cost of production.
8. Try a little bit of something new each year.
* Kevin Capistran, who farms at Crookston, Minn., is first vice president of the National Sunflower Association.
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