Growers can improve their odds of getting the best silage corn hybrids for their farms by 15-20% – if they use multi-location average performance data before making final selections, advises Joe Lauer, University of Wisconsin Extension corn agronomist.

“I always recommend using multi-location average data to make selections. Try to get as many averages as you can to make that decision,” using data from multiple regions within a state and from surrounding states.

University hybrid trial information is readily available on the Internet; the previous season’s data is usually posted just after Thanksgiving. (See below listing of sites with trial data.)

“We test the same set of hybrids at three or more locations and get an average. If you live in Lancaster, don’t just look at the Lancaster data; look at the average of all the locations in the area,” Lauer says. Then look at state and surrounding states’ data.

Also evaluate the consistency of a hybrid, he suggests. “If a hybrid ever fails in a trial, that hybrid should automatically become suspect. There has to be a reason why it failed,” he adds, and you don’t want it to fail on your farm. “You want to pick hybrids that are consistently good hybrids and are above average.”

With the advent of transgenics, Lauer began advising growers to buy only the traits they need in a hybrid. “If you don’t need a trait, then you really don’t need to buy it. I know that’s getting kind of difficult because hybrids are stacked now.

“In many dairy areas, for example, we need the corn borer trait but not the corn rootworm trait and that’s a $75-a-bag trait.”

Every hybrid has to stand on its own in terms of performance, he continues. “The way corn is bought and sold is oftentimes as a family of hybrids.” Be aware that a trait put into one hybrid may not work as well in another. “We know that these traits interact and it’s like brothers and sisters in a family. Not all are the same. They’ve all got their own talents and are better at different things.

“The same is true for corn hybrids that are stacked with these different traits. Some can actually interact in a negative way. So as long as a farmer is picking a hybrid based on its own performance and not buying the family, he’s better off.”

This year he’s asking growers to consider a fifth point – pay attention to the cost of silage corn seed.

“In Extension, we never used to recommend that because you were much better off buying a hybrid that was sometimes a little bit more expensive if it was better-performing,” says the agronomist. “Nowadays, some of these price differences between hybrids are just tremendous. We’re talking $100-150 between one bag and another where you have traited products.

"What we have to do, as managers, is predict forward, and it’s very difficult doing that because of the price differences between the different hybrids."

Where To Get Evaluation Data
The following listing offers quick links to university grain and/or silage trial information. Most hybrid evaluation data is released by the end of November. If your state isn't listed, contact your county agent for help.

Delaware: University of Delaware
Illinois: University of Illinois
Indiana: Purdue University
Iowa: Iowa State University
Kansas: Kansas State University
Kentucky: University of Kentucky
Louisiana: Louisiana State University
Maine: University of Maine
Maryland: University of Maryland
Michigan: Michigan State University
Minnesota: University of Minnesota
Mississippi: Mississippi State University
Missouri: University of Missouri
Montana: Montana State University
Nebraska: University of Nebraska
New Mexico: New Mexico State University
New York: Cornell University
North Carolina: North Carolina State University
North Dakota: North Dakota State University
Ohio: Ohio State University
Oklahoma: Oklahoma State University
Pennsylvania: Pennsylvania State University
South Carolina: Clemson University
South Dakota: South Dakota State University
Tennessee: University of Tennessee
Texas: Texas A&M University
Vermont: University of Vermont
Wisconsin: University of Wisconsin
Canada: Alberta
Canada: Manitoba
Canada: Ontario