Seed corn companies are developing better corn hybrids. The advances, in turn, have pushed Purdue University researchers to improve their testing methods.

Purdue agronomists met the challenge this year, conducting the most comprehensive field trials to date. The information is contained in Agronomy Bulletin No. B-806, "Performance of Commercial Dent Corn Hybrids in Indiana 2001."

The 40-page report analyzes hundreds of corn hybrids in such areas as standability, yield, moisture content and test weight. The publication is designed to help farmers choose the hybrids best suited for them.

Dozens of companies submitted hybrid seed for the trials. Test plots were planted at locations across Indiana, says Phil DeVillez, Purdue corn research agronomist.

"In the test we have approximately 40 different companies represented, ranging from big international companies to the small mom-and-pop operations that are regional in the state. We test approximately 300-400 different hybrids," says DeVillez.

"Over the last three years we've increased our plot locations from seven to 13. We're trying to get better coverage of the state's major soil types."

Plots were divided almost evenly into regional zones: north, central and south. Only three corn plots were planted on Purdue agricultural farms; the rest on land owned by cooperating farmers. The 2001 trials were better in several ways, DeVillez said.

"The big highlight this year was we changed the performance testing to give the farmers and companies better information," he said. "We grouped our hybrids in the test by maturity. In the past it's been a high population/low population-type study and no maturity ranges. "The advantage — especially for the farmers in the north and central regions that want to look early hybrids — we have a test comparing the hybrids in the early maturity range. So you don't get a 114-day hybrid compared against a 108-day hybrid."

DeVillez and fellow agronomy researcher William Foster also increased plant populations and switched from two-row to four-row plots. Wider plots reduce the shading affect tall hybrids have on short hybrids, providing more accurate testing, DeVillez said.

"Some of our tests averaged over 200 bushels an acre. We were really, really satisfied with the quality of the data and the performance of all the hybrids."

"Performance of Commercial Dent Corn Hybrids in Indiana 2001" is available through Purdue's Media Distribution Center by calling (888) 398-4636, or may be downloaded online at www.agry.purdue.edu/ext/variety.htm.