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Hybrids ARE Better

Friday, March 1, 1996
filed under: Fertility

Are today’s sunflower hybrids really that much better than those planted a decade ago? That’s a question growers may sometimes ask themselves — particularly after a season in which the number of pounds ending up in the combine hopper falls short, for whatever reason(s), of earlier expectations.

The answer, however, is an emphatic “yes.” And if you don’t believe your seed salesman, consider the numbers presented below.

Table 1 summarizes yield data from the North Dakota Agricul-tural Experiment Station’s Casselton testing location for the five-year periods of 1981-85 versus 1991-95. The table compares the yield of 894 — the genetic torchbearer first introduced in the early 1970s and still a strong parental presence in many commercial hybrids as of the early ’80s — with the hybrids of the ’90s. Current hybrids are much more diverse in genetic background.

Table 2 looks at oil content of all the hybrids in the 1991-95 Casselton trials (an average of 79 per year) and then compares the average — and the highest oil hybrid — with 894.

As Table 1 indicates, today’s hybrids do have notably improved genetic yield capacity compared to their counterparts of the previous decade. For the 1991-95 period, the average hybrid at Casselton yielded 2,279 pounds per acre — nearly 200 pounds more than the average hybrid in the 1981-85 Casselton tests, and nearly 300 pounds above 894. Even more dramatic, though, is the performance of the top-yielding hybrid. During 1991-95, the top yielder produced, on average, 2,887 pounds of seed per acre. That was 150 percent the 1991-95 yield average of 894.

Oil contents also have been rising. As Table 2 shows, the average of all 1991-95 hybrids at Casselton was 44 percent, com-pared to 42 percent for 894. Averaged across the five years, the highest oil content was 48.2 percent — 115 percent that of 894.
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