Corn Variety Trials
PFI cooperators are evaluating open-pollinated corn varieties and varietal hybrids in cooperation with Walter Goldstein of the Michael Fields Agricultural Institute and with USDA and ISU corn breeders. Why go to all this trouble when hybrid corn is so successful? Because that success comes with a price, literally. Technology fees on hybrid seed continue to rise. Some producers are concerned that future consolidation in the industry might even limit choice of seed. These farmers reason that if they had seed that they could save and replant from year to year (unlike hybrid seed), then they wouldn’t have to get top yields to remain profitable.
Most hybrids, also, are bred for yield not for nutrition. A project that begins in 2003 will seek to develop corn varieties high in specific nutrients. This corn would benefit livestock producers, especially if they could demonstrate its benefits to consumers. An example would be eggs with yellower yolks from increased vitamin A in the corn fed to chickens.
In 2002, farmers in Iowa, Minnesota, and South Dakota compared several open-pollinated and “synthetic” mixtures of varieties to a “farmer’s choice” variety of their choosing. Several ISU farms also participated, but their results are still being analyzed. As might be expected, on most farms the “farmer’s choice” yielded the most; the exception was on the farm of Don Adams and Nan Bonfils, Madrid, the only farm where the farmer’s choice variety was not a hybrid.
The highest yielding of the alternative varieties in 2002 was a “synthetic” mix of two inbred varieties, BS21(R)C7 and BS22(R)C7. Next was the synthetic mix of inbreds BSSS(R) C14 and BSCB1(R)C14, followed by Nokomis Gold, an open-pollinated variety developed by Walter Goldstein.