- On-farm hybrid plots are valuable, Ferrie says. They’re especially valuable for experimental hybrids not yet on the market, and for which you don’t yet have any on-farm history.
- A good seed rep can be worth his or her weight in gold because some new genetics will probably be planted every year. “The seed rep might be able to put you in contact with the company’s plant breeders, which can be a big help,” Ferrie says. “If he can’t tell you, or help you find, the weaknesses for every hybrid you plant, you might need a new seed rep.”
- Seed catalogs can be helpful if they include good ratings of hybrid and variety strengths and weaknesses.
- Ask your neighbors what they liked and disliked about the hybrids and varieties they recently planted, and how they managed them.
- Is the hybrid insect-traited? For which insects? Is it single-, double- or triple-traited?
- Does a traited hybrid need a refuge or is the refuge in the bag? If it needs a refuge, where must you plant it—in a block or every so many rows? “It’s important for your scouting crew to have this information,” Ferrie points out.
- Is the hybrid attractive to insects? “Some hybrids are more appealing to aphids, which are attracted by taste,” Ferrie says. “Incidentally, this also applies to deer.”
- To which diseases is a hybrid susceptible or resistant? “Study disease ratings, if a company provides them,” Ferrie advises. “Some diseases, such as Goss’s Wilt, might not be scored. You might have to ask your seed rep to obtain information from the plant breeder. If you are fighting Goss’s Wilt, you need answers.”
- Is a hybrid sensitive to postemergence herbicides? “If weeds escape and you have to rescue the crop, the pest boss will have to decide whether the herbicide will do more damage than the weeds,” Ferrie says.
“Some hybrids’ weakness is stalk quality,” Ferrie says. “Scout those fields prior to harvest, and plan to harvest them first, if necessary.” Green snap can become a problem with high-yielding hybrids. “With these hybrids, make sure your crop insurance policy covers green snap,” Ferrie says. With weeds, the pest boss must understand each hybrid’s genetic resistance. “But he or she also must know which products a hybrid is sensitive to,” Ferrie says. “If it is sensitive to growth regulators, avoid growth-regulator herbicides. If you plant a refuge in a bag, you need to know the herbicide sensitivities of both hybrids. Sometimes this information is on the seed tag, and sometimes you have to ask your seed rep.” Be aware of any hybrids that tend to be stressed by preplant or postemergence herbicides. If they are vulnerable, you might have to choose different products.
One of the first steps in implementing your pest control plan is to monitor heat units. “Keep track of heat units after planting to predict when the crop will reach a certain growth stage,” Ferrie says. “The pest boss needs to know when tassels will emerge and when pollination will begin. Use a day planner to allocate scouting resources and prioritize scouting based on hybrid and variety weaknesses:
- “If a hybrid’s weakness is aphids, the threat will begin two leaves before tassel emergence,” Ferrie says. “Be prepared to treat for aphids and protect those fields during pollination. If you have an on-farm weather station, you can adjust and target disease scouting based on the pace of disease development and hybrid vulnerability in each field.”
- “Scout early in fields with hybrids that are susceptible to early season disease or insects,” Ferrie says. “If a hybrid is sensitive to post- emergence herbicides, scouts need to monitor both weed and crop height.”
- “Some hybrids add most of their yield during the late grain-fill period,” Ferrie explains. “Those hybrids typically show a stronger response to fungicide applications. So you might base treatment decisions more on a history of response than to threshold levels of disease.”
- Standability is a weakness in some hybrids. “As the growing season ends, scout those fields for stalk quality,” Ferrie says. “You might want to harvest them early, based more on stalk quality rather than on grain moisture content.”
- As you treat for pest problems, be aware of label restrictions such as plant height, crop rotation and harvest interval, as well as interactions between products.