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Factors Affecting Hybrid Profitability, Stability

Wednesday, November 15, 2006
filed under: Hybrid Selection/Planting

Sunflower hybrid selection comes down to profitability and production stability, or production risk. Profitability is primarily a function of yield and oil content. Production stability is primarily a function of agronomic characteristics and disease tolerance. Keep these factors related to profitability and production stability in mind when selecting hybrids for 2007.

Marketability – Assess what market or combination of markets might give you the best price for your ‘flowers, considering multi-purpose hybrids that have flexibility in selling into several markets.

Yield potential – Performance averaged over many tests is called “yield stability.” This is a function in part of a hybrid’s ability to develop despite stress, which during the growing season can reduce the yield of some hybrids more than others. Good yield stability means that a hybrid may or may not be the best yielder at all locations, although it ranks high in yield 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. Be sure to compare yield potential of hybrids within the same maturity range.

Oil content/composition – Select a high-oil hybrid over a low-oil hybrid with the same yield potential. 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%. An oil percentage of 50% would translate to a 20% price increase due to the industry’s two-for-one oil premium over 40% - thus, the oil premium can be a significant influence of profitability. Evaluate the dependability or consistency of a hybrid to make a particular oil quality. If you are selling into the bird food market then oil content is not a concern; yield and test weight are more important in the bird food market.

Maturity – When comparing hybrids, use the maturity rating to make sure you are comparing apples to apples. 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, but if planting is delayed, only an early hybrid will mature and exhibit its full yield potential. Also, 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.

Disease tolerance – A minimum of three to four years rotation is recommended between successive sunflower crops to minimize disease potential. Consult the seed company for information on the reaction of a particular hybrid to diseases that may pose a risk in your growing area.

Self-pollination – Also referred to as self-compatibility, self pollination is ability of the plant to pollinate itself despite unfavorable conditions for pollination. This is recommended to be at least 90%.

Standability – This is a function of both stalk strength and root strength. A rigid stalk generally has better standability, although stalks need to have some flexibility to bend in wind. If stalks are too rigid, sunflower can green-snap. Strong roots support the plant and reduce the likelihood of root lodging, which results when saturated soils and strong winds cause the entire plant to tip over.

Birds – There are observations that sunflowers with concave heads, horizontally oriented heads (heads that face down) and a longer head-to-stem distance may suffer less damage from birds than other varieties. These traits make it difficult for birds to position themselves on the plant and extract seeds from the head. It is advised to plant these type of hybrids in north-south rows to maximize plant traits that discourage bird feeding.

Serviceability – Companies and seed dealers provide different services, policies, and purchase incentives. Determine what services you need, such as credit, delivery, and return policy.

Go to the NSA website ( to the ‘Growers’ section and then yield trials. Here, you can track a hybrid over four years and multiple locations to look for yield stability and other hybrid characteristics.

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