As corn and soybean harvest winds down this fall, so concludes the ninth year of F.I.R.S.T. seed testing. This year we've made changes to the way the results are presented. The biggest difference is how eight of our 25 regions are organized. The hybrids tested in these regions (see map on page 4) were split into two groups: early-season and full-season maturity. This allowed us to keep the number of hybrids in each test below 90.

Early-season hybrids have always been an attractive option for corn growers looking to spread their workload in the fall, bring the crop to market sooner, and reduce the risk of compaction and harvest losses. Now that energy costs have risen significantly, this is even more important. If you plant a well-proven, early-season corn hybrid, then the costs of fertilizing, harvesting, transporting, and drying the crop — all very energy-intensive operations — can be significantly reduced. This explains why we have also included a second page on all F.I.R.S.T. harvest reports that presents the top 30 hybrids by gross income.

Like every change though, there is a price to be paid. In the split-maturity tests it is no longer possible to properly compare the performance of an early-season and a full-season hybrid since they were not in the same test. As a solution, we have added a “check” hybrid — a single hybrid that was planted in both tests to account for yield differences resulting from differing field conditions. Applying the yield difference, which can be found on the regional summary pages, makes it possible to compare early- and full-season products in a region.

The other issue that requires attention is making sure that the right hybrids make it into the right tests. This means monitoring hybrids entered by estimating their maturity. When the moisture exceeds the test maximum by more than one-half day in maturity (calculated by regressing reported maturities by recorded grain moisture), then the hybrid appears in italics. Corn hybrids can vary in their relative maturity from region to region and from year to year because each grow-ing season is unique. A hybrid in italics does not indicate that its supplier has misled us.

All of the F.I.R.S.T. managers understand that you take your seed buying practice very seriously, and each of us will, with the continued hospitality of our farmer members, make every aspect of our work trustworthy. Please let us or your seed supplier know if you agree with the changes we've made this year or of any other change you feel would be helpful to get the very best seed on all of our test acres.

Lowering the number of hybrids in these tests has the following advantages:

  • Improved data quality
  • Hybrids competed against those of similar maturity
  • Facilitated the regional comparison between early- and full-season hybrids
  • Increased the number of hybrid yields reported
  • Ensured that the best early-season hybrid yields were recognized