For farmers and ranchers in BC, choosing the best performing corn varieties for silage can be a challenge.

Global seed companies develop hundreds of new hybrids every year, phasing out old varieties every four to seven years.  New varieties, with better weed control and water retention, can have higher yields.

Almost 30,000 acres of fodder corn are grown in BC every year, with an estimated value of $20 million.

“Over the last 20 years, dry matter target yields in corn silage have increased from five to seven tonnes per acre,” states Ted Osborne, semi-retired general manager at Coldstream Ranch in Coldstream, BC. “But because new corn hybrids cost more, the only way producers can ensure they will truly benefit from the new technology is to do local testing.”

With partial funding from IAF, the Pacific Field Corn Association undertook a project to evaluate silage corn hybrids for BC dairy and beef farmers.   From 2009 to 2011, field trials of new hybrids were conducted on three different farm sites in both coastal and interior regions of BC.

The research provided comprehensive data on yield, dry matter, grain and lodging percentages (results are posted on the Farmwest website: http://www.farmwest.com/variety_testing).

Having access to this data is highly valuable to producers, whose needs vary from farm to farm.  Some may need a higher yield, while others need more energy content.  Abbotsford dairy farmer Mike Dykshoorn was one of the volunteer hosts for the field trials.

“I was extremely pleased with both the research methods and the results,” states Dykshoorn.  “Over 40 different varieties were grown at this site and tested for the different attributes.  I found the data very useful to determine the type of corn that would be best for my cows.”

With the list of hundreds of hybrids narrowed to ones that are best suited to BC conditions, BC farmers and ranchers will continue to benefit from the technological advances of corn hybrids.

Funding: $29,969 provided through former federal adaptation programming. (A0586)