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Selecting Your ’02 Hybrids

Wednesday, January 2, 2002
filed under: Hybrid Selection/Planting

Selecting Your ’02 Hybrids

Market Versatility Guiding Producer Choices

Farmers like market choices when selling their sunflower crop. For the last several years, the hulling market has been using certain oil-type varieties in addition to confection types. The hulling market simply removes the hulls and sells the kernels into the bakery trade both domestically and overseas. This kernel market has been consistently growing.

Certain oil type hybrid planting seeds are acceptable as “hullers.” These hybrids have been very popular with farmers, because they have opportunities to sell to the hulling companies (also commonly referred to as “hullers”) as well as the crushing plant or the bird food markets. It all depends on crop quality and price.

Hybrid seed companies are developing more of these “switch-hitting” hybrids, giving farmers more hybrid choices. Companies are adding the oleic gene to these hybrids as well. That can extend the shelf life of kernels, or the seeds can be sold into the NuSun market. These market options add additional value for the producer.

“Sunflower is so unique. There’s direct human food market potential, bird seed market potential, oil crush potential. Not many crops out there have so many different market avenues,” says Bob Majkrzak, president and CEO of Red River Commodities, Fargo. “Growers need to research their market opportunities, and understand what type of market they want to achieve. Then select your hybrids, know who the buyers are for those type of hybrids, and know what’s expected of them.”

Kevin Staska, sunflower product manager for Interstate Seed, Fargo, agrees that multi-purpose hybrids are popular with producers, and seed companies are obliging them in developing hybrids with market flexibility. “I think the more options you can give growers, the better,” he says. Staska also points out that there is also demand for high oleic sunflower, used by some oil processors to blend oil to achieve the desired oleic level to meet their needs.

A number of seed companies are developing Clearfield sunflower: conventionally bred sunflower resistant to imazamox for control of a wide array of grassy and broadleaf weeds. BASF has developed the technology under the Clearfield name. Beyond is the product that will be labeled. A Section 18 label is being requested from the Environmental Protection Agency for the emergency use of Beyond on a limited amount of sunflower acreage in the Dakotas for 2002.

Should a Section 18 label be approved, Mycogen will have enough Clearfield sunflower seed available to grow about 15,000 acres in 2002, according to Scott Nelson, marketing specialist with Mycogen, who farms near Lakota, N.D. Nelson says his company’s new Clearfield hybrid is a Group 3 Nusun type, “with an excellent yield, oil and health package.”

Mycogen and other seed companies will have a much larger supply of Clearfield sunflower seed ready for planting in 2003. Sunflower having tolerance to the sulfonylurea herbicide Express is being developed by Pioneer and DuPont. Also bred conventionally, this technology is expected to be commercially released within a few years.

Seeds 2000 is one company that will be releasing a new hybrid this year that is resistant to the Apron-tolerant strain of downy mildew. “Defender” is an early-maturing hybrid that is best suited for production in the northern half of N.D., according to Steve Kent, the company’s president. “We look at it as a specialty needs hybrid for pockets where the environment is conducive to downy mildew development,” he says.

Evaluating Hybrid Performance

Jerry Miller, research geneticist at the USDA Northern Crop Science Lab, Fargo, N.D., says that yield potential, oil content, maturity, stalk strength, and tolerance to diseases and other pests are key characteristics to evaluate in a hybrid.

“If you’re in a production area that’s at risk to downy mildew, with a heavier soil type and poor drainage, than you might want to ask companies about new hybrids with resistance to the new strain of downy mildew that is tolerant to Apron. In northeast N.D. or northwest Minnesota, look at phomopsis resistance. And in general, look at hybrids that are tolerant of Sclerotinia,” Miller says.

Here are a few general notes to keep in mind as you go through the checklist in reviewing hybrid performance this year, and in selecting hybrids for next year.

Yield—Performance averaged over many tests is called “yield stability.” Good yield stability means that a hybrid may or may not be the best yielder at all locations, but that it does rank high in yielding potential at many locations. A hybrid that ranks in the upper 20% at all locations exhibits better yield stability than one that is the top yielder at two locations, but ranks in the lower 40% at two other locations.

Public and private breeders alike say that many NuSun hybrids now yield as good or better than most conventional oil hybrids, and will only improve as NuSun hybrids continue to be developed. In the event your NuSun hybrid didn’t yield as well as your conventional oil hybrid last year, then shop around for a different NuSun hybrid.

Oil content/composition— Select a high-oil hybrid over a low -oil hybrid with the same yield potential, but don't sacrifice yield in favor of oil content. The oilseed sunflower market pays a premium based on market price for over 40% oil (at 10% moisture) and discounts for oil less than 40%. A number of seed companies offer guarantees for NuSun oleic levels. As NuSun hybrid performance data builds each year, be sure to evaluate dependability or consistency of oleic levels for different NuSun hybrids.

Maturity— Be realistic of your expected planting date, and mindful of the average killing frost in your area. Later-maturing hybrids generally yield higher than early hybrids. Maturity is especially important if planting is delayed. Often, with delayed planting, only an early hybrid will mature and exhibit its full yield potential. Yield, oil content, and test weight often are reduced when a hybrid is damaged by frost before it is fully mature. An earlier hybrid will likely be drier at harvest than a later hybrid, thus reducing drying costs. Consider planting hybrids with different maturity dates as a production hedge to spread risk, drydown and workload.

Moisture content—Harvesting sunflower at higher moisture contents may reduce bird damage and seed shattering loss during harvest. Seed must then be dried to 10% or less for storage.

Disease tolerance—The most economical and effective means of sunflower disease control is the planting of resistant or tolerant hybrids, and a minimum of three to four years rotation between successive sunflower crops. Most sunflower hybrids in the United States have resistance to Verticillium wilt, races 1 and 2 of downy mildew, and to two or more races of rust. Consult the seed company for information on the reaction of a particular hybrid to these and other diseases that may pose a risk in your growing area.

Self-pollination (or self-compatibility), recommended to be at least 90%, is another trait to keep in mind. It refers to the ability of the plant to pollinate itself despite unfavorable conditions for pollination. – Tracy Sayler

Sunflower hybrid selection information online

Following are sources of public sunflower hybrid performance information available online the Internet. Some sites have not yet posted online performance trial information data from the 2001 growing season, but will soon.

North Dakota State University Research and Research Extension Centers

South Dakota State University Plant Science Department

Kansas State University Research & Extension Crops and Soils Library

University of Nebraska sunflower testing results (with links to previous years of data)

Colorado State University Sunflower Page (with links to previous years of data)

Texas A&M-Lubbock Sunflower Production Information (See link, NuSun Mid-Oleic Oilseed Sunflower Yields vs. Conventional Oilseed Sunflower Yields)

How To Compare and Choose a Sunflower Hybrid

The first step in choosing a sunflower hybrid is to determine what your farm needs are for this planting and marketing season. Just because a hybrid is the top yielder in a given plot or plots, doesn’t mean it will be the most profitable hybrid for your farm.

Agronomic Needs

There are many components that contribute to high yields. All sunflower hybrids have different stress points that will produce or prevent top yields. Ask yourself these questions when evaluating what your agronomic needs are from a sunflower hybrid:

 Are you no-till, minimum till or conventional till?

 Is your soil type cool, medium or warm?

 Is soil compaction a problem on your farm?

 What type of disease pressure do you have on your farm?

 Do you need to harvest early?

 Do you need hybrids with excellent standability?

 Will moisture be adequate, short or excessive?

Marketing Needs

What market is going to give you the best price for your seeds, NuSun oil, hulling or the bird food market? Will you be using a combination of these markets?

Service Needs

Companies and dealers provide different services and may have different policies. Determine what services you need:

 Do you need credit for your seed purchase until fall?

 Do you want your seed delivered to your farm before planting, or for additional seed during planting?

 Do you need help scouting your fields during the growing season?

 Do you need your dealer to plant or harvest your ‘flowers?

 What type of return policies does the company have on seed purchases?

Key Tips in Selecting a Hybrid

 Use the maturity rating to make sure you are comparing apples to apples.

 Use the Oleic percent to make sure a hybrid has a good possibility to make NuSun quality.

 Compare the other agronomic ratings to determine which hybrids meets your farms needs best.

 Compare your findings about these results with other local yield trials.

 Compare your findings to your seed dealers’ recommendations.

– Max Dietrich

Making Sense of Hybrid Statistics

Expected mean in plot trial information refers to the average performance number for a particular trait of all hybrids evaluated in the trial.

The coefficient of variability (C.V. %) often listed at the bottom of a table is a relative measure of the amount of variation or consistency recorded for a particular trait, expressed as a percentage of the mean. Generally, trials with low C.V. rates are more reliable for making hybrid choices than trials with higher C.V. rates. Trials with C.V. rates below 15-20% are generally considered to be reliable for comparing yield.

To accurately determine if one hybrid is better than another for a given trait, use the least significant difference value (LSD 5%) at the bottom of the table. This is a statistical way to indicate if a trait such as yield differs when comparing two hybrids. If two hybrids differ by more than the indicated LSD 5% value for a given trait, they would most likely differ again when grown under similar conditions. If two hybrids differ by less than the LSD for a particular trait, than there’s no statistical difference.

For example, if a performance trial table indicates one hybrid yielded 2,600 lbs/acre, compared to another hybrid in the same plot that yielded 2,310 lbs/acre, and the LSD for this particular plot trial data is 407 lbs/acre, there is no statistical difference in yield between the two varieties.

In another example, if the oil content percentage for one hybrid is 44 compared to 41 for another, and the LSD is 2.3, the first hybrid can be expected to have a higher oil content than the second hybrid, under similar growing conditions.

Give more weight to information from trials or fields close to your particular growing area. It’s best to compare relative performance over many years and locations. Consult with an agronomist or your local seed dealer for more specific hybrid information. – Tracy Sayler

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