Update, April 2015: Check the latest specs on the Beck's - Kinze Multi-hybrid planter, now nearing full commercial availability.
Raise your hand if you have a field larger than 40 acres that is all one soil type. If your hand is up, you might be the only one in your county who has their hand in the air.
Put your hand down. Now raise it if your seed dealer sells you different hybrids for different fields, based largely upon soil type. Probably several of you have your hands up this time. If they know that certain hybrids perform best in certain soils and the conditions they foster, like wetness or excessive dryness, then wouldn't it stand to reason that if you could plant the ideal hybrids for each of two soil types in the same field, you should have better odds of harvesting more corn per acre?
Beck's Hybrids' Jason Webster thinks so. Beck's is based in Atlanta, Ind. Webster operates one of their Practical Farm Research Farms in Downs, Ill. He has worked for two years on testing the concept of changing hybrids on the go. He's convinced that in comparison to planting just one hybrid in the entire field, he can raise yields by shifting hybrids by soil type.
Raise your hand if you think your soils likely vary more than they do in Downs, Ill., near Bloomington, in the heart of the state? Many hands go up. If it works there, wouldn't it work anywhere?
Webster recently went to Texas to help a farmer learn how to use the multi-hybrid concept planter Kinze built. A total of six of the planters will be working throughout the Midwest this spring. Each row can receive seed form one of two seed boxes. No matter which hybrid is being planted, seed falls down a central seed tube into the soil.
Not everyone is sure multi-hybrid planting will pay in the long run. Dave Nanda, Director of Genetics and Technology for Seed Consultants, Inc., says that it is very difficult to match hybrids in that situation and gain an edge. The problem is that the weather and other environmental factors have such an effect that the difference in switching hybrids may be overshadowed.
Since hybrids aren't around as long as they used to, there's also a problem with figuring out which hybrids do the best where before the genetics behind them is obsolete, he adds. He's taking a "wait-and-see" approach.
Expect to read and hear a lot more about multi-hybrid planters in the weeks and months ahead. Kinze hasn't committed to actually producing and selling the planter commercially. It appears they're waiting to gauge the reaction and interest form farmers before making a decision on if and when to offer the planter commercially.