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White Corn Hybrids Yield Big Results
Last fall Bill Beckman harvested the equivalent of 330 to 430 bu./acre corn with 85-day white corn hybrids planted at a rate of only 25,000 plants per acre. For 10 years, he has selected inbred lines from open-pollinated corn varieties. This past season, the Minnesota professional plant breeder began testing hybrids produced from those lines. He was excited at what he found.
"They had a lot of hybrid vigor, and we were done harvesting by mid-September," he says. "One hybrid was tremendous. It stood around 10 ft. tall with huge, well positioned ears that had 14 to 16 rows of 50 kernels each."
Beckman's hybrids varied from 35 to 51 grams/100 kernels with many in the high 40's. Check plots of yellow corn averaged 19 to 30 grams/100 kernels. Using an industry formula, Beckman can extrapolate out a per acre yield from his small plots. At 40 grams per 100 kernels, the 10-ft. tall hybrid would produce 294 bu./acre at only 25,000 plants/acre. Increase the weight to 45 grams per 100 kernels and the plant population to 30,000, and yields would be 398 bu./acre.
"The starch storage in white corn is enormous compared to yellow corn," says Beckman. "I want to give farmers another crop they can plant and harvest with the same equipment. White corn is what most of the world raises. It's a food crop, but I think it has a future in ethanol production, too."
Beckman credits a friend and fellow plant breeder, the late Fred Elliot, for giving him the white corn lines. "Fred had been collecting seed from around the world for years and sent me 82 ears," says Beckman. "He had been open-pollinating them and selecting the ones that matured. He told me to make a hybrid from them."
This coming year Beckman will be planting and harvesting 20 new hybrids produced from Elliot's early work. He plans to increase planting rates to 30,000/acre, a population rate he feels they will handle easily. He already has several farmers interested in producing parent lines for his hybrids.
"Farmers in my area of southeastern Minnesota have seen some of my plots," says Beckman. "I'll have no problem lining up a group to grow product out. If I thought the best hybrid this past year was the one to go with, we could have it on the market in about two years."
Goals for the new hybrids include 85-day maturity and maximum yield on minimal inputs. In 2009 Beckman planted on April 18th. Cold weather slowed emergence until May 5th to 7th. Even with a cool, dry summer, the plots were mature by mid-September and bone dry by October first. Most neighboring fields were too wet to harvest for another month or more. Input efficiency was equally impressive.
"The plot ground had no history of manure applications, but it was in soybeans the year before," says Beckman. "I figure I put the equivalent of 36 lbs. of nitrogen on per acre. University recommendations are about 50 lbs. of nitrogen for 50 bushels of yield, but I think my hybrids can do it on 30 lbs."
Contact: FARM SHOW Followup, Bill Beckman, 44733 County 4 Blvd., Zumbrota, Minn. 55992 (ph 507 732-4226; wpbeckman@earthlink.net).

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2010 - Volume #34, Issue #2