Around the Farm – Multi-Hybrid Planting with Seed Prescriptions

Although the fundamentals to planting have generally stayed the same from when my grandfather farmed to now, a lot of things have changed – or progressed, as technology has. One of the bigger developments in the modern age of farming has been the ability to plant more than one crop variety in a field at the same time, or multi-hybrid planting.

Let me back up a couple steps. Similar to how cars, trucks and tractors have different makes/models and each model has different characteristics (think Camaro vs. F350), such is the nature of crop varieties.

There are numerous seed companies (the make) a farmer can buy from and they each have hundreds of seed varieties (the model) he can buy, each with their own characteristics. Some varieties will do decent over all soil types and environments – we call these the workhorse varieties; other varieties will greatly out-yield the previous varieties in prime soil but might not do as well in poor soil – we call these the racehorse varieties.

With the implementation of multi-hybrid planting, we no longer have to choose just one crop variety to plant in a field at a time. Each box on our planter is equipped with two seed compartments; this allows us to interchange between two different seed varieties while we plant.

Our planter is equipped with 16 of these boxes. The line down the side of the box is the divider between the seed compartments. We are able to put one seed variety in the front of the box and another in the back and can switch between the two as field environments change.

On our farm when we’re choosing corn hybrids to plant one of the first things we do is decide which hybrids are compatible. We will typically grab one workhorse and one racehorse, but they have to be close in maturity; this is necessary because when we ship corn to market each kernel should have 15% moisture content. If we have two hybrids in a field at different maturities one could come out of the field at 20% moisture and the other at 17%. If this was the case it would prove to be a challenge to dry the 20% corn down to the ideal 15% without over cooking the 17% corn.

One corn hybrid combination we like to use on our farm is Pioneer P0825AMXT (racehorse) and P0589AMXT (workhorse). One is a 108-day corn and the other is a 105-day corn, so they’re close enough in maturity, but one is a racehorse and the other is a workhorse.

Once we’ve chosen our hybrids we can start creating “seed prescriptions” for our fields. To make a seed prescription we look at each field individually from our computer, break them down by soil type, and look at the environmental factors and productivity levels. Then we determine how light/heavy we want to plant seeds based on those conditions.

With multi-hybrid seed prescriptions we assign our racehorse to our best ground and workhorse to our marginal ground as well as setting plant populations. Once the seed prescription is generated we then transfer that computer file over to our tractor’s computer which is connected to the planter and will tell it what to do.

Planting season here we come!