Friday, September 28, 2012

IMPACT Lessons

Yesterday the Pioneer IMPACT team showed up to combine their soybean plot behind our warehouse.

There is a huge effort put into the IMPACT program evaluating the next generation of soybean and corn genetics. 
Another example of this occurred last week.  Brian and I were with a large group of Pioneer agronomists, plant breeders and assorted technical specialists from Ontario, Michigan and Ohio looking at our corn IMPACT plot at Bill McIlhargey's.  This group is responsible for developing and evaluating corn genetics for the Great Lakes area.  They were on an evaluation tour of dozens of corn IMPACT sites across the province.  IMPACT plots typically have about 28 corn hybrids.  Half of these are new hybrids.  The rest is split between current Pioneer hybrids and competitive hybrids that a lot of you currently grow.  Each plot is 8 rows wide by 56 feet long and there are replicated check hybrids at each location.  The check hybrids are proven Pioneer hybrids currently sold.  The IMPACT plot is the last step in the selection process new hybrids are subjected to.  The new hybrid, or soybean variety, must do well in IMPACT testing before they make the team. 
IMPACT plot locations are carefully chosen and placed on a wide range of soil types from sand to loam to heavy clay.  The intent is to expose hybrids to typical field conditions that occur across Ontario.  The main criteria of each site is uniformity of soil type, drainage and slope.  Those of you that know the front of Bill's farm understand why this location meets the standard.  It would be considered a high yield site with well drained silt loam soil. 
The only problem is when you receive one inch of rain from July through August a site with high yield potential can become somewhat less than high yield.  And pose a challenging question to the evaluation team.
These two pictures are of a Pioneer hybrid currently on the market.  (Please don't panic and start calling because Brian and I do not sell a lot of this hybrid.)  My point is not to prove that we are incredibly smart in not promoting it.  This hybrid is used as a check hybrid and has some important characteristics for growers.
This picture is the same hybrid about 100 feet east from where I took the first two pictures.  Looks fantastic.  Now, put yourself in the agronomist position.  What have you learned?  Is this hybrid a total piece of trash?  Customers like the hybrid and continue to purchase it.  But the first two pictures would sure make you stop and think.  Nobody wants to expose customers to that kind of response to drought.  Or has the extreme lack of rainfall caused a 1 out of a 100 type response.  We are dealing with genetics and there is no sure thing.  And what about the new hybrids and the responses we witness at this location?  Are we seeing the worst or the best of the new hybrid? 
The correct answer is, while the mental pictures will stay in our head, the yield data generated from this one location is probably useless.  There is too much variability to generate meaningful comparisons. 
This makes us ponder the strip plot comparisons we have planted in our own fields.  Will this information be useful?  Or do we have the same problem as this IMPACT site? 

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