Photo Credit: Greg Roth, Penn State Extension.
Having a range of variety maturities is a good strategy for spreading risk on many farms. Earlier corn hybrids and soybean varieties provide some advantages for earlier planting of cover crops and small grains. By having a preplanned strategy you may be able to maximize the benefits of the various maturities you have selected.
First, let’s define corn maturities. When I think about a maturity range of hybrids for an area I am usually thinking about a 12-14 day spread in maturities. For example in Central PA we might consider 98-102 day as our early group hybrids, 103-108 day as our Medium Maturity hybrids, and 109-112 as our full season hybrids. Early hybrids have little maturity risk but some risk of reduced yields in some seasons. Medium maturity hybrids have low maturity risk in most situations and high potential yields. Late hybrids have high potential yields but some maturity risk in cool seasons or when planted on the late side.
For corn, one issue is “calendarizing” your crop to avoid all of it pollinating in the same time frame. Generally this strategy involves planting some short season corn first, moving into full season corn next and finishing with some medium maturity hybrids. If planting is delayed, some early hybrids can be used to finish up. This also provides some corn acres for an early harvest “shakedown” and an opportunity to plant timely small grains or cover crops in the fall.
Another important consideration is harvest timing. With today’s large planting equipment we can plant lots of corn in a narrow window. For silage this can be an issue, if everyone plants the same maturity corn in a region or on a large farm, it will all be ready at the same time. This could present a challenge at harvest to get it all harvested at the optimum moisture. On the flip side, an operation that gets its silage harvested all in a few days will want a narrow range of maturity on the farm.
We have been monitoring silage yields of different maturities in our silage hybrid trials in Southeast PA for the past several years, comparing early (94-104d), medium (105-110d), medium late (111-115d) and late (116-118d) hybrids. Averaged over three locations, the medium late hybrids topped the yields, late hybrids yielding 0.2 t DM/a less with medium hybrids 0.6 t DM/a less, and the early hybrids 0.9 t DM/a less. These are relatively modest differences given the advantages in harvest timing, equipment use and small grain silage yields that earlier hybrids can provide.
For soybeans, we might see 1.0 maturity group (MG) range possible at an individual farm, say MG 2.5 to 3.5 in Central PA. Generally, early soybeans do best planted early, and later soybeans planted later. An early 2.5 soybean planted early in Centre County will usually be ready to harvest in late September. This can provide an excellent situation to plant winter wheat or even barley without any late planting impacts. Numerous growers have reported success with this strategy at our recent soybean workshops, with excellent yields associated with the early soybeans planted early strategy.
The bottom line is that it pays to consider hybrid and variety maturity before planting to maximize the efficiency of your harvest plans and optimize yields of crops that follow corn and soybeans.