As the harvest hustle and fall fieldwork starts to slow, it is time to reflect on the growing season to see what worked well and start making decisions for the next season. On-farm yield data from the current season is a great way to evaluate hybrid and variety performance.

For choosing new or different hybrids and varieties, the University of Illinois Variety Testing provides some useful information to aid in making those decisions. The Variety Testing program conducts replicated, small-plot testing on commercially available corn, soybean, wheat, forage crops and sorghum in northern, west-central, east-central and southern Illinois with about three locations in each region. These tests have been conducted over multiple years, allowing for evaluations to be made across diverse growing seasons. Yield data can be found on the Variety Testing webpage at {http://vt.cropsci.illinois.edu/}.

When making comparisons, I typically like to look at yield results across multiple locations to see how consistent the hybrid or variety yields.

Other sources that provide quality yield data include the FIRST (Farmers Independent Research of Seed Technology) plots. These plots are conducted throughout the Midwest by farmers using their traditional management practices. With these trials, information such as soil type, fertility programs, pest management, and planting population are included that allow you to make decisions based off practices similar to your own.

For a deeper dive into corn hybrid evaluations, look at some of the work done the Crop Physiology Lab at the U of I. With its Management Yield Potential Trials, commercially available corn hybrids are evaluated across three rates of nitrogen (0, 60 and 280 pounds of nitrogen), three plant populations (32,000, 38,000 and 44,000), and two row spacings (20 and 30 inches) in northern, central and southern Illinois. These evaluations are useful in matching hybrids with your current management practices, or even provide data on how to better manage hybrids you currently plant. This information can be found on the Crop Physiology page at {http://cropphysiology.cropsci.illinois.edu/}.

Yield information provided by private companies can also be useful for making comparisons to results from other sources. The more data you have to compare might make things more confusing for yourself, but it can be helpful for seeing results across varying soil types and environments.

I’m adding this good growing tip. A certain hybrid or variety is not going to yield the same for everyone due to our variations in soil type, fertility programs, weather and other management practices. No one knows your land and farming practices better than you. It is important to do your research and find something that will produce well for you!

Katie Parker serves as University of Illinois Extension local foods and small farms educator in Adams, Brown, Hancock, Pike and Schuyler counties.