2. Choose hybrids that have produced consistently high yields across a number of locations. Choosing a hybrid simply because it contains the most stacked transgenic traits, or possesses appealing cosmetic traits, like flex ears, will not ensure high yields; instead, look for yield consistency across environments. Hybrids will perform differently based on region, soils and environmental conditions. Growers should not rely solely on one hybrid characteristic, or transgenic traits, to make their product selection.

Most of the hybrids available to Ohio growers contain transgenic insect and herbicide resistance. However, the 2012 Ohio Corn Performance Tests reveal that there are some non-transgenic hybrids suitable for non-GMO grain production with yield potential comparable to the highest yielding stacked trait entries. Nevertheless, when planting fields where corn rootworm (RW) and European corn borer (ECB) are likely to be problems (in the case of RW: continuous corn, presence of the rootworm variant; in the case of ECB: very late plantings), Bt traits offer outstanding protection and may mitigate the impact of other stress conditions. For more on Bt traits currently available, check out the Handy Bt Trait Table (pdf) from Michigan State University and the University of Wisconsin.

Given the record high temperatures and dry conditions during the 2012 growing season many farmers will be focusing on drought resistance ratings of corn hybrids. Several seed companies have introduced hybrids with enhanced drought tolerance that warrant attention. Some of these drought tolerant hybrids were evaluated in the 2012 OCPT. When evaluating results of hybrid performance trials affected by drought, care must be taken in interpreting the results. Did a hybrid yield well under drought stress because it genuinely possesses some drought resistance or because it "escaped" the impact of high temperatures and drought by flowering before or after the worst of the stress? If it was the latter, then the hybrid's superior performance may be of limited value under different drought conditions in the future.

In past years, we have sometimes observed that if a drought occurs late in the season then early maturing hybrids will have an advantage over later maturity hybrids; if the drought occurs earlier, but is broken by rains later in the season, then the full season hybrids may have the advantage. This year yields of some short season hybrids were impacted more by stress than later maturing hybrids because they pollinated during periods of especially hot (several consecutive days with 100 degree F plus temperatures), dry conditions in late June and early July, whereas full season hybrids flowered later when conditions were less stressful.