By Sarah Green
For many farmers, choosing a silage corn hybrid is an important decision. When considering the factors of yield potential, leaf area, and kernel type, not all corn hybrids produce the same results. Ultimately, it comes down to hybrid genetics, a topic that breeder Francis Glenn is an expert on.
Recently, Glenn produced a full-floury corn hybrid with enhanced hybrid digestible starch. This hybrid creation marks yet another milestone in Glenn’s career. In the 1980s, he developed the world’s first leafy corn hybrid, and after three decades in the industry, he’s still making breakthroughs.
As Dieter Schwarz, NorthStar Genetics’ Corn Product Line Manager explains, Glenn’s leafy corn silage hybrid has 70 percent more leaf area above the ear per plant versus commonly used dual-purpose grain hybrids, which equates to 40 percent more total leaf area per plant.
“[This hybrid] also has a silage-specific kernel type that behaves differently in the field, the chopper, the silo, and the rumen. The kernels are large, soft, and slow drying, which makes them fracture easily during chopping and cow chewing, for maximum starch digestibility,” says Schwarz.
Ultimately, the defining characteristics of Glenn’s corn hybrids are a small particle size, long rumen retention time, high energy starch, a versatile ration type adaptability, and an increased potential to produce milk content.
With decades of knowledge under his belt, Glenn believes his corn hybrid will create several benefits for farmers.
“The combination of features bring a long list of benefits to the dairy operator, starting with a lower seed cost because they plant 20 percent less seed. They tend to realize higher yields of higher quality milk,” Glenn explains.
“There are a number of agronomic and ensiling benefits as well, ranging from added drought tolerance and increased fertilization security, to longer harvest windows and shorter requirements before feeding.”
Schwarz also sees the inherent benefits this floury leafy corn silage hybrid offers.
“The combination of smaller particle size, longer rumen retention, and high energy starch in the floury kernel allows for excellent ration adaptability, which then creates high quality milk, faster gains, and healthier animals,” says Schwarz.
“It also produces a high-yielding, easy-to-harvest silage product that will ensile faster. This is of particular advantage when feed supplies are tight and the new crop needs to be available quickly.”
Schwarz believes there are very few disadvantages in choosing this particular hybrid; however, he does recognize some flaws.
“The only potential disadvantage of choosing a silage-specific hybrid is that they make a very poor grain hybrid, they produce a lot of material and stover which will be a challenge to work in if used for grain production, and they have very poor kernel drydown. This will still allow these hybrids to be used for high moisture corn production, just not traditional grain corn,” Schwarz explains.
Despite this fact, Schwarz believes choosing this specific hybrid is the best decision a dairy farmer could make.
“Farmers want a high rate of gain, milk production, milk fat, healthy animals, and healthy calves. Floury leafy hybrids deliver that while at the same time offer agronomic benefits such as ease of harvest, wide harvest window, lower plant population, a resilient plant, and lower chopping costs,” says Schwarz.
For Glenn, he believes his creation will make significant change in the farming industry.
“No one is as vulnerable to a poor season as a dairy operator. No matter the season, they will have mouths to feed and they cannot easily or cheaply ship corn silage from a distance. They depend on the silage crop that they produce themselves on their own farm or on the farm of a nearby neighbour,” Glenn explains.
“It is with this in mind that I have bred the highest quality, most resilient products possible. In our breeding nursery and in our replicated trials, these hybrids have to perform through tough environmental pressures or they don’t come to market. With a leafy, a dairy operator can choose to have a low cost, high-yielding, reliable product for their operation, and this is exactly what is needed.”
Glenn’s passion for breeding has always been intentional, thoughtful, and specialized. He explains that he bred floury leafy corn silage hybrids specifically for the needs of farmers who raise cows.
“Every aspect of the products’ characteristics and performance has been tailored to the silage growing, making, and feeding process,” says Glenn.
“The end result is that farmers who plant these leafies at their recommended populations, max 30,000 ppa, will save money, have added crop security, and their herd should produce high quantities of high quality milk.”
Ultimately, Glenn’s product combines the best of both worlds into the ultimate high performing silage specific corn hybrid.
“I’ve designed these products to produce reliable, high quality feed even when the season is tough — as it so often is. A dairy farmer needs high-yielding, high quality, reliable feed, and that’s always been my goal in my breeding program.”
We’re very proud that all of NorthStar Genetics silage specific products contain floury and/or leafy characteristics,” Schwarz adds with excitement.