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College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences


Yields All Over the Board in Ohio Corn Performance Trials

December 8, 2008

COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Summer drought and Hurricane Ike produced a mix of high and low yielding test sites in the Ohio State University Corn Performance Trials.

"Hybrid yields varied considerably across the state in 2008 and this certainly was reflected in the corn performance trials this year," said Peter Thomison, an Ohio State University Extension agronomist. "In the northwest region, yields averaged 159 and156 bushels per acre in the early and late maturity test, respectively, in contrast to the southwest/west central region, where yields averaged 235 and 230 bushels per acre in the early and late maturity test, respectively."

Researchers tested over 240 hybrids representing 33 commercial brands in three Ohio regions. Three test sites were established in each region. Testing was also conducted at Coshocton, an area with a history of high gray leaf spot incidence.

The trials are designed to evaluate corn hybrids based on a variety of performance characteristics, such as yield potential, percent moisture, stalk lodging, emergence and test weights of the grain. The results help growers select hybrids that not only yield well, but can also withstand a variety of environmental factors and growing conditions. Complete results are available online at

"Growers need to look at as many locations as possible this year to get a good feel for hybrid performance. If they plan to make their hybrid decisions based on results of a test site near their farm or based on their own on-farm test strip tests, their data is unlikely to indicate which hybrids are most likely to perform best in 2009," said Thomison, who also holds an Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center appointment. "If a grower had an environment that was free of lodging and had good growing conditions, he may see a different hybrid ranking than a grower with fields that experienced severe stress."

Thomison said that choosing the best-performing corn hybrids is growing increasingly difficult as the turnover rate for hybrids entered into the trials climbs higher

"Traited" hybrids, those with transgenic traits for Bt insect resistance and herbicide tolerance, dominated this year's corn performance trials with more than 90 percent of the entries being transgenic. In 2002, less than 15 percent of the hybrid entries were transgenic.

"These trends towards transgenic corn in the Ohio Corn Performance Test reflect the increasing adoption of transgenic hybrids by farmers in Ohio. As recently as 2005, less than 20 percent of corn acreage in the state was planted to transgenic corn hybrids," said Thomison. "However, this year USDA estimates that two-thirds of the state's corn acreage was planted to transgenic corn hybrids."

Not only is transgenic corn acreage increasing in Ohio, but also the number of years a hybrid is evaluated in the trials is decreasing.

"We like to tell growers to use multi-year data, but that's becoming more difficult to do. In 1997, 45-75 percent of the hybrids evaluated were in the trials for two years. In 2002, that number was down to 32 to 62 percent. This year, only 17 to 29 percent of the hybrids were in the trials for two years," said Thomison. "Growers and industry argue that they may miss out on good genetics if they only consider hybrids in the trials for two or more years, but using only one year of data to evaluate performance puts the growers in a precarious situation if they encounter varying growing conditions."

As an alternative, Thomison is encouraging growers use as much 2008 multi-site replicated data as they can and is recommending that they consider other university performance trials from neighboring states and private seed testing companies to compare hybrids.

Despite the large number of transgenic hybrids being evaluated, Thomison notes that growers interested in planting non-transgenic hybrids should review the 2008 Ohio Corn Performance test results.

"Two of the top-10 performing hybrids in our trials for the western region were non-transgenic hybrids. That probably tells you those are some pretty good hybrids," said Thomison. "Ohio growers are looking at non-transgenic hybrids more closely next year to take advantage of the non-GMO premiums and because of higher costs of seed."

According to the Ohio Agricultural Statistics Service, 94 percent of Ohio's corn has been harvested. Average corn yield is estimated at 147 bushels per acre, down from 150 bushels per acre last year.

Candace Pollock
Peter Thomison