Hertz Farm Management sponsored a “Hybrids of the Decades” historical corn plot this past summer as part of its 60th Anniversary celebration. The plot featured some of the popular varieties from each decade since 1946.
There were two parts of the plot. Management practices from each era were used in the north half of the plot. For instance, the hybrid planted in the 1946 to 1955 decade was in 40-inch rows with 4 plants every 40 inches, so the field was “checked” and could have been cultivated in both directions. The plant population was 15,000. The hybrid in the 1956-1965 decade was in 38-inch rows with 3 kernels planted every 24 inches resulting in 20,000 plants per acre. The balance of the plot was planted in 30 inch rows and the population was increased for each decade with the hybrids in the current decade planted at 32,000 plants per acre. 80 pounds of nitrogen per acre were applied in the 1946 to 1955 and the 1956 to 1965 segments of the plot. All other parts of the plot received 140 pounds of nitrogen.
The south half of the plot had the same seed varieties as the north half, but using today’s management practices which included 32,000 plants per acre in 30” rows and 140 pounds of nitrogen. The intent of the plot was to determine how much of the yield increase in the past 60 years was from improvements in genetics of the corn hybrids and how much has been from changes in management practices.
Harvest results showed there was a significant yield gain with each new decade with the biggest increase, 47 bushels per acre, in the current decade (a 24% increase over the prior decade). Plot yields ranged from 127.8 bushels per acre in the 1946 to 1955 decade, using the management practices typical of that era, to 245.1 bushels per acre for today’s modern hybrids. Stalk quality was also much better in today’s hybrids.
The majority of the increase in yield proved to be from improved plant genetics, but there was a 10% average increase in yield when the varieties were planted using today’s management practices (narrower row width, higher plant population and additional nitrogen) versus the management practices that were typical for each decade.
We were impressed how high the yields were throughout the plot compared to what was typical for each time period. The high yields can be attributed to the plot’s flat and black well drained land that was in a high state of fertility, excellent weed control from effective herbicides, no cultivation and a nearly perfect growing season.
Over 250 people attended our plot field day on August 21. Attendees had an opportunity to view and reminisce about some of the older hybrids and enjoyed looking over older and newer farm equipment on display.
Our “Hybrids of the Decade” plot exemplifies the enormous changes that have occurred in agriculture and management practices since 1946 when Hertz Farm Management was founded.
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