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April 20, 2014

Farm briefs: April 20, 2014

Researchers unveil data in corn silage hybrid study

PLATTSBURGH — The Northern New York Agricultural Development Program (NNYADP) has posted the results of its regional 2013 corn silage hybrid trials at Cornell University researchers conducting the NNYADP-funded trials are calling producers’ attention to digestibility data.

“Most agronomists and animal nutritionists now believe that stover fiber digestibility is one of the most important hybrid characteristics affecting silage quality. Furthermore, some animal nutritionists believe that starch concentrations are no longer adequate in assessing corn silage hybrids for quality but rather starch digestibility of the grain is far more important,” said lead researcher William J. Cox, a Cornell University Crop and Soil Sciences professor.

Seed companies released brown midrib (BRM) hybrids in the 1990s and 2000s, which provided dairy farmers with the choice of selecting hybrids with high fiber digestibility. Some of these hybrids, however, had agronomic challenges in the past, such as lower tonnage and lodging problems. Newer BMR hybrids, however, have less of a yield penalty and stand reasonably well except in severe wind storms.

“In the future, it is expected that seed companies will release hybrids that have higher starch digestibility, which will provide dairy farmers with the choice of selecting hybrids with both high fiber and high starch digestibility,” Cox said. “Nevertheless, we also must evaluate the agronomic performance, including stand emergence under cool conditions, lodging tolerance and yield, as well as silage quality of these new hybrids.”

The NNYADP and Cornell University have evaluated numerous corn hybrids under different management practices including planting date, plant density, row spacing, N rate and timing, harvest date, and harvest cutting height over the last 30 years. 

“In almost all instances, the selection of the hybrid has had a greater influence on silage quality than have management practices. Consequently, we believe that hybrid selection is the most important management practice affecting corn silage quality in most growing seasons,” Cox said.

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