How to decide on seed choices
What do you do when seed companies flood the market with hundreds of new varieties and traits? You can’t test them all in your own replicated plots. So what do you do?
I suggest asking your seed rep questions about the new products. Figure out what type of products you need.
Deciding on relative maturity is easy. Which diseases and insects are prevalent? Do you get a premium for non-GMO? If not, what type of herbicide or insect traits do you really need?
Ask your rep for performance data on new products. They may not have lots of data, but they should be able to show you whatever research they’ve done. If your rep can’t give you data, tell them you’re not interested until they can.
• You can’t test every new release in replicated, on-farm trials.
• Learn all you can about the hybrids that might work for you.
• Plant two rows of the top 20 in an observation plot on your farm.
Let’s say you secure 20 new hybrid samples. Pick your best hybrid to use as a check. Select a uniform area and plant two rows of each, while planting two rows of the check hybrid every fourth or fifth time.
You can look at lots of new varieties without using up space and time. Record notes on each new variety for emergence, vigor, ear height, insect and disease tolerance, standability, and stay-green power.
Ask your seed rep to bring a weigh wagon. Get a rough idea on yield.
Ask for data
Attend as many seed field days as possible. Most companies display new offerings next to their most popular numbers.
The company likely has replicated test plots pre-release. Ask for data from multiple locations and multiple years. Make sure you see dependable data for these new numbers compared to their best hybrids in your area before committing lots of acres to new products.
Most companies offer great discounts for an early order in summer. Reserve seed of some of these new hybrids, and continue studying them in your own plot. Make sure you have the right to exchange them after harvest. It’s fine to be at the cutting edge, but these tips should keep you off the bleeding edge.
Attend university field days. Encourage the company you work with to enter new products in university trials. Data from those tests can supplement all other sources of information as you make final choices.
Nanda is an agronomic crops consultant and director of genetics and technology at Seed Consultants Inc. Contact him at 317-910-9876, or
This article published in the April, 2011 edition of INDIANA PRAIRIE FARMER.