By Geoff Geddes
It used to be that corn in Western Canada was rarer than predictable weather. Thanks in part to innovations like a new early maturing corn hybrid from NorthStar Genetics, however, interest in this crop on the chilly prairies is heating up.
“Over the last few years, corn has grown in popularity out west,” said Claude Durand, product development manager with NorthStar Genetics.
Once occupying just a small area in south-central Manitoba, corn has increased in volume and territory to the point that it’s now common in other areas of the province and appearing in parts of Saskatchewan.
“Every year you see more and more of it,” said Durand.
Based on initial trials of NS 72-521 VT2PRIB, western producers may be seeing more of this hybrid in particular.
Long list of benefits for short growing season
“Its 72 early maturity rating makes it a good fit for shorter growing seasons in Manitoba, Saskatchewan and possibly Alberta. First-year results in the fields look very promising. In many trials, it was the first variety to flower with nice cobs and pretty decent yield for an early variety. Compared to other varieties in that maturity class, I think it will fare very well.”
Among other things, Durand likes the strong agronomics with good early vigor, impressive root and stock strength, and sound drought tolerance. And because it is quite hardy and forgiving, it could be a welcome addition for new growers.
In spite of being an early maturing variety, it can also be a solid choice for producers in areas with longer seasons who want to spread out their risk.
“You’ll give up some yield doing that but reduce your risk in the process as this hybrid has decent tolerance to Goss’s wilt, shows a high test weight at harvest and dries down quite well.”
Being a Double PRO variety, NS 72-521 VT2PRIB boasts corn insect tolerance and the convenience of refuge-in-a-bag, so there’s no need to calculate or plant separate, structured refuge in the corn-growing area.
This all comes as good news to those who see corn as more than an eastern commodity.
“With varieties becoming better and better, they are also gaining in popularity in non-traditional areas. There is an investment required to branch out into corn, so varieties must offer a yield that makes the investment worthwhile.”
To that end, companies have been earmarking large sums for corn hybrid research, and are now seeing the fruits of their labor.
“Growers are taking a closer look at corn and like what they see. It’s not a hard crop to grow and spreads out your harvest. It also gives you something different in your rotation that is a good alternative to cereal crops.”
And if you’re making the move to corn in less than optimal climates, this latest corn hybrid may be the place to start.
“This is basically the first step into the corn business for NorthStar Genetics. We’ll know more when the combines start rolling and confirm our first impressions, but this is a nice, safe variety to kick things off. We fully expect to broaden our portfolio for corn hybrids in the future.”
In the meantime, this year will serve as a trial period for the new hybrid. If all goes as planned, there will be more of it available next year when the official launch occurs.
While there are no guarantees, success for this latest variety appears likely. And in an industry where fortunes can change like the weather, that’s as close to a sure thing as you can hope for.