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Is it Time to Switch to an Earlier Maturity Corn Hybrid?

Categories: PLANTING, CORN

Every spring, many farmers at some point will consider switching their original hybrids to earlier maturities, especially when planting progress is delayed. But before changing any plans, it’s important to take a closer look.

Hybrid Maturity Selection for Late Planting

Since most springs are not ideal, farmers are often faced with the decision to continue as planned with planting a full season hybrid, switch to an earlier maturity or plant an alternative crop. Our Golden Harvest Agronomy in Action research team has conducted multi-year studies to better understand the impact of waiting too late to switch hybrid maturity or pulling the trigger too soon. The chart below shows why we always recommend planting the fullest season hybrid adapted for the area.

Fuller season hybrids are able to maximize the growing season to produce higher yields over mid- and short-season hybrids. However, as planting is delayed, the combination of grain drying costs and reduced yield potential from late planting start to minimize the difference in return on investment from planting full season hybrids. Although it’s important to remember that if you have grain drying capacity, there is still an economic benefit to waiting until the 3rd week of May before moving to a 4 to 7 RM earlier hybrid (see chart below). After May, you need to consider switching 8 to 11 RM’s earlier than your original RM, or switch to a different crop.  

In summary of the findings above: 
  • On average, hybrids will only lose 1 bushel for every 10 days of planting delay prior to May 10.
  • Planting dates after May 10 can experience up to 1 bushel of yield loss each day delayed.
  • Yield benefits of full-season hybrids offset potential grain drying cost enough to discourage switching Relative Maturity (RM) prior to the last week of May.
  • Corn hybrids mature with fewer accumulated heat units when planting is delayed, minimizing the risk of fall frost injury.
Golden Harvest Agronomy in Action research and numerous university trials have shown minimal yield loss (0.11 bu/day) from delayed planting up until May 10. After May 10, there’s a much bigger penalty (1 bu/day) for delayed planting. The thought of switching to an earlier maturity hybrid when facing a planting delay happens more frequently than most farmers would like. Thoughts of an early fall frost make the decision even more emotional. Before making big shifts to an earlier maturity hybrid, it’s important to understand what we’ve learned from previous research to make the most profitable decision. Here are a few key considerations regarding delayed planting.

A slight planting delay doesn’t necessarily require a switch to a shorter RM hybrid. Corn hybrids mature with fewer accumulated heat units when planting is delayed. This allows the same RM hybrid to reach physiological maturity in fewer days than earlier planting dates, reducing the risk of delayed maturity and potential frost injury. There may be a need to switch to an earlier RM hybrid at some point in time, but it’s important to remember that a day delay in planting doesn’t always mean a day delay in harvest.

The graph below from Agronomy in Action research uses $3.50 per bushel grain and $0.06 per point drying costs. The lines represent return on investment per acre based on whether a hybrid is considered a full, mid- or early season hybrid for the area. A full season hybrid has the latest maturity for the area. A mid-season hybrid develops 4 to 7 days earlier, while the early season hybrid is ready to harvest 8 to 11 days earlier than a full season hybrid. 


Information from the University of Minnesota outlined in Table 1 below shows similar recommendations and can also be used to help guide your decisions regarding corn maturity for late planting.

Table 1

In summary, farmers should stick with their planned seed corn choices until the last week in May. When planting is delayed until after May 25, it is a good risk management strategy to reduce the relative maturity of the corn hybrids that will be planted. 

Contact your Golden Harvest Seed Advisor with questions or for additional agronomic insights.

Photos are either the property of Syngenta or used under agreement.

Syngenta hereby disclaims liability for third-party websites.


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