WATERLOO, NY — Selecting what corn to plant for corn silage represents a huge decision for dairymen raising their own feed. That’s why Cornell University partners with a various seed producers to conduct its annual New York Corn Silage Hybrid Tests.
Joe Lawrence, dairy forage systems specialist Lewis Co. Cornell Cooperative Extension, presented the research team’s findings at the recent Corn Congress hosted by Cornell.
The team planted 29 corn silage hybrids at the Musgrave Research Farm in Aurora, NY and at Greenwood Farms in Madrid, NY, a commercial grower. Seed producers submitted seed samples for a fee to ensure the research was unbiased.
As last year proved dry for most operators in New York, researchers paid special attention as to how the lack of moisture affected corn.
Many parts of the Empire State received less than one inch of rain for, most of May, all of June and most of July.
“When a crop gets stressed like that then later gets rain, the whole crop dry matter will really bounce around,” Lawrence said.
The team planted in Aurora on May 12 and in Madrid on May 17. All the corn was planted using a two-row planter at 34,0000 plants per acre. The team planted two 20-foot rows, 30 inches apart. Once the corn emerged, they thinned the corn to 17.5 in. and 32,000 plants per acre.
They used a block design with four replications by 5-day maturity groups. The corn began tasseling around July 21 in Aurora and July 15 in Madrid.
At the farm in Madrid, NY, “we had respectable yields,” Lawrence said.
The Aurora, NY site was “clearly stressed, and that affected yield,” Lawrence said.
He added that the late rain in August and early September helped the crop improve more than the team had expected but the intermittent rainy weather also made it difficult to select good timing for the harvest.
Madrid also experienced decreased rainfall; however, the timing provided much more favorable conditions than in Aurora. As a result, the Madrid crop presented less stress than the Aurora fields and better yield performance across all hybrids.
In the past, yield was based on predicted tons of milk based on forage, but Lawrence wondered if that type of estimation is really doing a good job in separating hybrids.
If the feed isn’t as appealing to cows, such as at the Madrid site, cows don’t eat as much and subsequently don’t give as much milk.
“Don’t look at this as absolute models,” Lawrence warned. “We do expect these differences to be real and rank them as that.”
Weather made a difference in fiber digestibility and starch, both of which affect the quality of the forage and subsequently milk production.
The Cornell team measures the crop’s digestibility and nutrients using the Cornell Net Carbohydrate and Protein System 6.5.5, the most widely used model among U.S. dairy nutritionists.
Lawrence hopes to test hybrids next year at more than two locations. He said five would be ideal.
“With only two, we’ll take the results with a grain of salt,” he said.
The complete results of the study will appear on www.fieldcrops.org.