Understanding corn silage trial test results

Posted on October 28, 2019 in Forage Foundations
By Steve Murty, Vita Plus forage products specialist
As harvest season wraps up, many plant breeders and agronomists anxiously wait for the annual corn silage research trial results to see how a particular corn silage seed performed.  Producers will soon be swarmed with yield data from independents, universities and their own field results.  Where do you start?  Is the top-yielding hybrid the best fit for your farm?  Will tons per acre or bushels tell the entire story for the top-producing corn silage hybrid?

All of this information can be overwhelming.  To help make it more manageable, let’s break it down.

First, you need to decide what goals you would like to achieve with your forages, whether it is higher yield or better starch or fiber digestibility.  Then you can identify what data from the corn silage trials will pertain to your operation.

When it comes to reviewing unbiased university yield data, it is best to look at data from multiple years and across a wide range of conditions to help manage your risk and understand how a particular seed’s genetics will perform in different environments.  In many situations, this amount of data can be hard to find as hybrids continue to cycle through trials quickly with the release of new products.

If data is not available from multiple sites, a single location trial can offer statistical inference for a single plot, such as standard deviation and confidence interval; a comparison of participating hybrids in a monoculture for that year; tight comparison of specific nutritional traits or agronomic features; or a basic comparison of characteristics to the plot average to understand the yield curve.

Since several localized factors, such as weather and soil type, can influence the performance of the hybrids at a single location, studying the absolute values (yield per acre, starch percentage or fiber digestibility) is not suggested.  It is much more helpful to study the trial average and compare hybrid performance relative to this average to gain a better understanding of how it performed under the conditions at that location.  Independent plots will include a range of products with different relative maturities.  Dry matter can influence nutritional value of individual products and should be considered in the product evaluation.

While a favorite product may not be in the trial, products with a similar lineage with preferred agronomic characteristics will be displayed to indicate the best field environment to obtain optimum yield.

Evaluating the different available products is not an easy task, but help is available.  Sorting through the corn silage characteristics most important to your operation from the unbiased university trial data and using that as a reference to specific products in the independent research trials can be a great way to determine what seed you want to use.

You can sort through the trial data that will be released in late November and early December, or you can utilize spreadsheets, like the Vita Plus University Corn Silage Hybrid Data spreadsheet, to evaluate the unbiased researched products as a first step.  This article helps explain how to use the spreadsheet, or you can contact your Vita Plus consultant to help you work through it.  Then, working with your nutritionist, agronomist, and seed sales representative, decide what the best product available is for you to plant in the next growing season.

Category: Forage Foundations
Forage harvesting