The Importance of Proper Seed Selection
It is planting time once again for many corn farmers. Coming up is the wet season cropping, probably the more challenging season of the year. Along with the wet season comes a litany of issues and problems which our corn farmers will encounter, from pest and disease right after seedling emergence to harvesting(when you don’t need the rains anymore). But don’t get me wrong, I am not discouraging you from planting yellow corn at this time of the year. Let’s face it, the coming months will surely be a tough season but a good and wise farmer would know ho to deal
FIVE THINGS TO REMEMBER
Whenever new or soon-to-be corn farmers ask me about tips in growing corn, I always go back to what my mentors taught me. The following are
the five key technologies one should remember in pursuit of better profitability in corn:
1. Seed selection – choose the best adapted hybrid for your area and your needs.
2. Plant population – ensure proper planting distance; each hybrid you choose has specific recommended planting distance or seeding rate.
3. Balanced fertilization – follow the recommended fertilization rate for your field; even better would be soil analysis for your field.
4. Pest control – timely and effective control or management of diseases, insect pests, and weeds; you get to know them.
5. Water management – take note of the critical stages where your corn needs the most water and where it is most sensitive to water stress.
CHOOSING THE RIGHT HYBRID
Let me focus on seed selection. (The other four have been discussed extensively in previous issues). Oftentimes, this is the most ignored aspect in corn production. There are still many corn growers who thought all hybrids were created equal. For as long as they emerge and develop ears and produce yields, they can choose any hybrid that they want.
But take note, in other crops poor selection of varieties often leads to disastrous results. Certain veggies grown in the elevated farms of Benguet will never be suitable in the lowlands because of different temperature regimes; unless you choose the ones developed for the low-lying areas. In palay, higher-yielding but disease-prone varieties are reserved for the dry season where diseases are less likely to occur. If you intend to establish a mango orchard you know you have to settle for the “Carabao” cultivar otherwise you’ll waste money and time on inferior varieties that have no or limited market.
KEY STEPS IN SELECTING THE BEST HYBRID
Prior to the growing season, a farmer should spend some time evaluating his previous crop and think of what else could be done to improve it in the coming season. The following steps could be a good guide in hybrid selection.
1.) Check yield consistency across locations and over years. Stability in yield is very important in choosing hybrids since the environment is more significant than individual management practices. For sure this year’s, growing season won’t be the same as last year. Such seasonal difference will surely surprise growers who rely so much on limited observations. However, in selecting a hybrid, take note that possession of a particular trait, such as big ears, many kernel rows, deep kernels, prolificacy, or upright leaves do not ensure high yields. Instead, look for stability in performance across environments.
2.) Know your hybrid’s maturity. If you planted late in the dry season, select an early-maturing hybrid so you could avoid the rains during the harvesting and drying period. With full season hybrids, physiological maturity or “black layer” formation will be late resulting in inadequate kernel maturity, wet grains (high moisture), and challenging and costly postharvest environment at the onset of the wet season. Generally, full season hybrids (>110 days) usually outyield early maturing ones. However, recently developed short maturing hybrids can produce the same yield as the full season types. It is best therefore to take a look at your chosen hybrid’s maturity profile from brochures, flyers, and even from agronomists assigned in your area.
3.) Take advantage of new genetics. It has always been proven that new elite genetics will outperform the old ones. Filipino farmers who have been growing corn since the introduction of hybrids will attest to this. In’ the `70s and `80s, hybrid yield of 5-6 metric tons (MT)/ha was already impressive. From the `90s up to the present, farmers now report yields exceeding 9 MT/ha. What’s more, current hybrids in the market are more tolerant to diseases, high density planting, and even drought.
4.) Use hybrids with good agronomics. By these we mean good tolerance to various environmental stresses.
These can be categorized as diseases, insect pests, and strong winds. Some of the major corn diseases and insect pests in the Philippines are listed below.
Growers in the highlands of the Philippines is especially concerned with majority of these diseases including the need for tolerance to vivipary or germination of immature kernels of ears still attached to near mature plants. Vivipary is a non-abiotic disorder.
Likewise critical is the standability or the ability of the roots and stalks to withstand high winds. High incidence of lodging will definitely slow down harvest and decrease yield in -both quantity and quality. Things to check for can be thick stalk rind (genetic stalk strength plant height), ear placement, and resistance to stalk diseases.
5.) Plant only high-quality seeds with excellent emergence potential. Make sure to get your seeds from companies that strive for excellent seed quality and after-sales customer service.
6.) Know you target market. Tall, leafy hybrids can be an ideal choice for
the silage market while those targeting feedmillers should rely on hybrids with good protein levels. For processing, oil and starch content will be important. In Mindanao, white corn grits generally command a better price than yellow grains and has good consumer base. Hence, pay attention to the kind of market you want and adjust your hybrid choices accordingly.
7.) Talk to your local Pioneer representative about performance data and other selection criteria. Because weather conditions are unpredictable. the reliable way to select hybrids is to consider. performance (from company trials) 1st year and this year over a wide range of environments and locations. Don’t rely too heavily on on farm strip tests or on just one trial location because it cannot predict hybrid performance in different conditions. On-farm trials however can be useful in getting certain traits evaluated such as harvestability (ease of harvesting). grain quality, disease resistance, and lodging tolerance.
Additional information can also be obtained from your agronomist regarding the need for insect resistance (Bt corn) and new weed management options (glyphosate-tolerant corn) in your area depending on what time of the year.
You can also consult for other minor considerations before you purchase. These may include certain management interactions with your hybrid corn from plant population, tillage. soil fertility, crop rotation, etc.
Stalk Rots Ear Diseases Leaf diseases Virus Insect pests
Bacterial rot Bacterial rot Gray leaf spot Dwarf mosaic Asiatic corn borer
Fusarium Gibberella Northern leaf blight Maize stripe True armyworm
Pythium Diplodia Southern Rust Pink stem borer
Charcoal Fusarium Banded leaf & sheath blight Seedling maggots