Dave Nanda's best advice is to have your own test plot and move new numbers into your corn line-up slowly. Come back with hybrids you are familiar with on a good share of your acres. Nanda is a crops consultant, and also a consultant for Seed Consultants, Inc.
Word on the "road" is that conventional hybrid sales are up considerably in some areas. It's believed to be primarily about cutting input costs, not necessarily seeking non-GMO premiums. Conventional hybrids without trait are typically significantly less expensive per bag, making the cost per acre significantly less as well.
Nanda has always recommended only using traits when and where you need them. So this would seem to make sense.
Except for one catch 22 – if you're planting conventional hybrids this year for the first time in a long time, they aren't hybrids you have likely seen in your plots, or maybe seen anywhere. Even if genetics are supposed to be the same as a version you grew with traits, odds are the best scenario is they are similar. Converting a hybrid to a traited hybrid involves some changes in genetics, even if minor.
The bottom line is that if you are switching to conventional hybrids and planting numbers you don't have experience with, have a long talk with your seed rep. Go beyond the dealer level if you need to do so.
Make sure you know the pluses and minuses of the hybrid you will be planting. What diseases is it resistant to? What diseases is it susceptible to? What is the maturity range? How well does it dry down? What is its track record on staying healthy and standing in the fall? How well does it get out of the ground and get going?
Also ask to see yield data from plots. The best information would be data form third party plots, such as university trials, where plots are replicated. Ask to see results from multiple years and multiple locations if it's available.
If in the end you have doubts about the hybrid you've selected for the soils where you intend to plant it, work with your seedsman to see if there is a better choice in your price range. We understand all about saving input costs. We also know the old saying "don't cut off your nose in spite of your face."
If you save $25 per acre on seed costs but give up 15 bushels per acre in yield, a modest amount, which is $45 at $3 corn, you've lost $20 per acre off the top. On 1,000 acres that's $20,000.
Conventional seed may be your best choice – just make sure it's not a haphazard choice made without thought and homework.