Back Cheap seed doesn't pay

Date: 18 September 2015

With current dairy payout at a historic low, farmers are constantly looking for ways to improve profit margins. The temptation to try and reduce feed costs by planting low-price seed for maize silage will always be an issue. However, the potential loss in yield could result in farmers having to buy in more expensive feed replacements in the long run.

To demonstrate this, let's look at an example which uses actual New Zealand trial data.

*Stars shown next to the yield comparison indicate the level of confidence that a real yield difference actually exists between the two hybrids based on the yield data. *** = very highly significant (P≤0.001), ** = highly significant (P≤0.01), * = significant (P≤ 0.05)

This example shows planting Maximus will cost the farmer $1,452/ha in lost income. What may have looked like cheap seed ends up being a very costly input decision. In fact, even if the seed was free, it would still cost you money because of the hybrid's lower yield.

Choosing the best maize silage hybrid

So how should you go about choosing a maize silage hybrid? Industry experts recommend you consider the following factors (in priority order):

Hybrid maturity.
This is important because it will give you an indication of the number of days it takes your crop to reach harvest maturity. For best results, select a hybrid that's not too long or too short for your growing environment.

Agronomic strengths.
Selecting hybrids that have the right agronomic strengths for your area will help to ensure yield stability. That means you will get good yields year after year. Each region has different soil types and climates and choosing a hybrid that suits those of your farm is crucial to yield. NIWA has predicted a 90% chance of El Nino this summer with a wetter spring giving way to drought conditions in the Eastern regions. Choosing drought-resistant maize like the Pioneer Optimum Aquamax® hybrids could prove a wise investment for many farmers this season.

High quality seed.
Seed harvesting method, handling, drying, seed treatment type, shipping and storage can all influence the emergence and growth potential of the maize seed you plant. Seed purchased from a company that has ISO-certified quality control systems in place ensures the seed supplied is in the best condition for planting.

Yield is the key driver of maize silage profitability in New Zealand2. Select hybrids that will give you the highest drymatter yield. When comparing hybrids look for statistically significant yield data. Usually many side-by-side comparisons conducted over several seasons are required to generate the statistical significance necessary to demonstrate that hybrid yield or nutritional differences are due to hybrid genetics and not environmental causes, maturity differences or sampling errors.

Nutritional quality.
Maize silage hybrids differ in a range of nutritional characteristics including metabolisable energy (ME), starch content and availability, acid detergent fibre (ADF), neutral detergent fibre (NDF), fibre digestibility and crude protein. Once you have identified a high-yielding hybrid that meets all of the above requirements, you should then make sure there is scientific evidence that proves the hybrid nutritional claims will deliver an animal performance advantage.

Choose a seed brand that offers full technical backup and in field support together with a comprehensive replant risk policy. As well as providing proven, high-yielding maize hybrids, Pioneer can help you with all aspects of growing, harvesting, storing and feeding your maize silage crop.

Purchasing maize silage seed is an important management decision. The true "cost" of seed is not reflected in the upfront purchase price alone. Planting an inferior, low-yielding or unproven maize hybrid may be more expensive and a lot more risky in the long run.


1Yield data from Pioneer Product Advancement Trials.
2Kolver et al, 2003. Ranking maize hybrids for silage quality and milk production in pasture-based dairying. Proceedings of the New Zealand Society of Animal Production 63: 101-106.