Photo courtesy of Glenn Seeds
Now that you have completed your silage harvest for this season, it is time to consider what you need to plant for next year. Selecting corn hybrids for your farm is one of the most important factors to achieving a successful crop. There are a number of things to consider when selecting your silage hybrids to make sure they align with your production system and desired goals. We strongly suggest that you consult with your nutritionist to identify your ration and production goals and pick the type of silage corn that best fits your operation.
Selecting Your Type of Silage Corn
There are two main types of silage corn that producers grow, and each one has different attributes to consider.
These are hybrids that have been developed for grain production but also make very suitable silage options. These are generally high yielding, tall, and robust hybrids that provide high tonnage and high energy content feed. They also provide flexibility for swing acres and changing harvest plans in-season.
Management notes: dual-purpose varieties are generally easiest to grow as they require less specific management. Planting populations can range from 30,000–38,000 plants per acre. For better digestibility, consider a lower population, while a higher population will give you greater tonnage. Standability will also be the best with a dual-purpose product. Consider applying a fungicide to your dual-purpose to increase yield, quality, and digestibility.
These hybrids have been bred for increased whole plant digestibility and high tonnage. These hybrids tend to have a higher leaf:grain ratio, less lignin in the stalk, and a softer kernel texture. These hybrids are best suited for silage, and combining them should be avoided due to poor grain quality and standability late in-season.
Management notes: silage-specific hybrids need to be planted at a lower population of 27,000–32,000 plants per acre. These large robust plants will compensate at these lower populations, and thus standability is improved. Plant 80% of your silage acres to a silage-specific hybrid and 20% to a dual-purpose to allow for harvest flexibility in the fall. Silage-specific hybrids are not designed to be combined or left out late in-season. Apply a fungicide to silage-specific hybrids to improve yield, plant health, and standability.
Selecting the Desired Traits
Every operation is different, and therefore each producer must consider in advance where they are going to position their silage corn. Some farms are able to rotate their crops around, and others, due to logistics or limited land base, are forced to grow corn on corn. This gives you direction on what traits your corn will need to grow the best crop possible. If you are growing your silage on rotated ground, following alfalfa, soybeans, or wheat for example, this gives the producer the options of using all the available traits—or none at all. If you are forced to grow corn on corn, it is recommended that you use a rootworm-protected hybrid. More consecutive years of corn on corn generally means more risk from rootworm damage. Rootworm traits help protect the plant from insects and improve yield and standability. Because not all trait options are offered in certain genetics, this may limit a grower’s options when selecting for a certain hybrid.
Choosing the Correct Maturity of Silage Corn
The next thing to consider, once you have determined the type of silage hybrid and the desired traits that you need, is the maturity of the corn that you want to grow. Generally, the guideline is that you would select a hybrid that is 150–200 crop heat units (CHU) or 7–10 relative maturity days (RM) longer than the adapted grain corn for your area. An example would be that, if you grow a 2750 CHU/92 RM grain hybrid, then you would select a silage hybrid that is approximately 2950 CHU/99 RM in maturity. We suggest this to try to maximize the growing season and accumulate as many tonnes per acre as possible.
Quick Reference Guide on Choosing a Silage Hybrid
Silage Specific = Dual Purpose
Dual Purpose >
Silage Specific >
|Flexibility of Harvest:
Dual Purpose >
Silage Specific = BMR
Selecting Silage Hybrids to Optimize Production on Your Farm
At Maizex Seeds, we have taken the initiative to test our hybrids in different management regimes to see how each individual hybrid responds. The different management strategy tests include response to nitrogen, population, and VT foliar fungicides. In doing so, we assign a responsiveness index to our hybrids so that producers can select hybrids that will best fit their operations. This way, if a producer knows that they like to push fertility and population and they use a fungicide, they can select a hybrid that has shown more responsiveness to those inputs. Or, if a producer tends to be more conservative on inputs, they could choose a hybrid that is more stable under less intensive management. The terms “offensive” and “defensive” are often used to describe hybrids. The offensive hybrids will respond more to additional inputs, whereas a defensive hybrid would be more consistent under less management.
Below are some 2020 results from Alma, Ontario, showing how two different hybrids respond to population and VT fungicide. Note how each hybrid reacts differently to the inputs and how that could affect how a producer chooses to manage that hybrid in their operation. MZ 4049SMX is a dual-purpose hybrid, and LFG 9701R is a silage-specific hybrid in this trial.
Now that you have evaluated your needs on your farm and considered the attributes of the different types of silage hybrids, talk to Your Trusted Seed Partner for your specific needs. They will have the knowledge of the current products for your area and how to best manage them on your farm.