In the past few years, we have seen our hybrid line-up change dramatically. Some growers are asking what happened when their best hybrid was phased out after only a few or in some cases, one to two years of sales. It seems not long ago that a hybrid would be around for five to seven years before it disappeared from a company Product Guide and availability list. Now it is unusual for a hybrid to remain in a line-up that long. Several things have contributed to this trend.
1. Better breeding methods have led to more rapid genetic gain for grain yield and agronomics. For more than forty years, breeders made gain in yield potential to the tune of about 1 bu per acre per year. Now, thanks to Marker Assisted Breeding and increased knowledge about the corn genes, genetic gain for yield is 2 to 3 times that number. Therefore, planting a 3-year-old hybrid may be costing a grower 6-9 bu per acre compared to planting a new release. It is important to get this increase in yield potential in growers’ fields quickly even at the expense of replacing an old favorite.
2. Products with new, value-added traits replace products with traits of lesser value. We saw this with SmartStax® and then again with SmartStax® RIB hybrids. Multiple modes of action for insect control as well as the convenience of Refuge In the Bag has driven increased demand for these products very quickly. These products have quickly increased in volume at the expense of other products that could not be converted to this technology. Also, there is typically a performance “bump” in products released a year or two after the new technologies hit the market. These new hybrids then quickly replace the hybrids that were initially released with the hot, new tech trait. Each release offers improved performance for a grower but sometimes there is only a year or two between releases.
3. The ability to produce a hybrid has a huge impact on the ability to offer a product in a consistent supply at a reasonable price. We are at times limited by parent seed availability and at other times, not for lack of trying, faced with the fact that a hybrid can simply not be produced in an economically feasible manner. This may not show up the first year of production or even the second year, but it can sure bring the lifespan to a halt when it does. Then, another hybrid has to replace it.
With this rapid turnover of products, there is little time to “try a few bags” and then try a few more the next year. Products that are selected for future releases have much more testing behind them than those of the 80’s and 90’s. This increases the level of confidence and predictability of this increased performance. These new products go through multiple years of research trials and then get put into our Elite Dealer Strip trials. This process moves quickly so that growers can capitalize on the increased genetic gain that the new products possess. Increased yield potential is coming to the grower faster than it ever has before. And I do not see it slowing down in the near future.