Agronomy •  2022-11-21

Advanced corn hybrids providing more opportunities for corn growth in Western Canada

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Corn has made a major move west over the past decade, but it hasn’t been as quick as initially expected. Two major factors in limiting adoption have been a scarcity of suitable hybrids for Prairie climates and a lack of profitability for farmers.

Western Canada’s short growing season is especially challenging for corn crops. Cold spring soil temperatures can delay planting and early fall frosts or snowfall can hamper harvest efforts. Climate events like drought, flooding and extreme heat also make it difficult to grow a profitable crop. That’s not to mention yield-robbing insects, such as European corn borer, which are increasing in Western Canada.

The good news for prospective corn growers is that more early-season grain and silage hybrids have become available in recent years. The result of industry-leading corn genetics bred and tested in the West, these higher-yielding hybrids are greatly enhancing the viability of the crop in Western Canada.  

While corn may not be a fit for every farmer, those willing to make the initial investment in equipment and infrastructure, such as corn planters, combine headers and grain driers, could be in prime position to take advantage of this new opportunity and reap the financial rewards.  

Map of manitobe, alberta and saskatchewan

Not all geographic regions have a market yet for corn. Corn acres are mostly concentrated to Manitoba and Alberta but are expanding.
Source: Statistics Canada, 2018. 

Finding the right hybrid for maximum yield in your region 

Look at maturity ratings

Corn hybrid maturity ratings help growers compare and select hybrids, manage risk and spread out their harvest period. However, since there is no industry standard for these ratings, comparing hybrid maturities between companies can be difficult and confusing.

By evaluating our corn hybrids for growing degree units (GDUs) to silking, and to physiological maturity, Pioneer provides excellent hybrid maturity information needed to accurately compare differences and help growers make sound hybrid decisions on their farms. These are called Comparative Relative Maturity (CRM) ratings.

Pioneer CRM ratings are values to allow maturity comparisons between hybrids. However, they do not represent actual days from planting or emergence. Pioneer also assigns corn heat unit (CHU) values to help position hybrids in the field. Corn heat units are a system to relatively rank hybrids for their maturity as determined by moisture in the ear, or more specifically, the milk line progression of a hybrid close to harvest. 

Tips to keep in mind

  1. Look at the corn heat unit rating of the hybrid and the physiological maturity for your area (see provided maps) to best determine whether a particular hybrid can be planted on your farm based on the growing degree days in your area.
  2. Compare the ratings of a new or unfamiliar hybrid to one you are currently planting or one that is grown successfully in your area. (Keep in mind that varied area climates or extreme conditions may alter some hybrid maturity comparisons.)
  3. Select a hybrid with the appropriate maturity. This is important because a hard-killing frost before physiological maturity will cause a premature black layer, halt grain fill, and may result in chaffy kernels with poor grain quality and test weight. Frost damaged corn usually has a slower grain dry down and additional losses may result due to delayed harvest. Therefore, it is critical to select hybrids that can normally mature before the first average killing frost date in your area.
  4. Select an appropriate heat unit corn to achieve the desired maturity. This depends on the end use of the corn you are producing, as a hybrid that you would choose for silage will have different characteristics than a hybrid you would choose for grain corn. The same is true for choosing a product for grain corn production vs. grazing.
Contact your local Pioneer Sales Representative for more info on choosing the best hybrid for your farm.

Corn is a good feed replacement for cattle

Whether it’s grown for grazing or silage, corn is a strong feed option with economic and animal health benefits. Today, there are many high-performing corn products developed for Western Canada so it’s easier than ever to find a hybrid that ensures optimal biomass and starch yield for your livestock feed.

Economics of growing grazing corn

Corn offers a high quality and high quantity feed choice that will out-perform other feed options available to producers for winter grazing beef cattle. In grazing situations, corn will help lower cost of production, increase cow-days per acre and maintain cow health and condition throughout the winter grazing season. Cattle producers need to consider growing feed for energy vs. protein. Even though barley provides some energy, it doesn’t supply enough protein for the diet, so you still need to add protein to either a barley or corn diet for your animals. An important consideration on the energy side is that corn yields higher (ton/acre) so it will have more energy per acre. 

  Barley Swath Grazing Grazing Standing Corn
Wet Yield (Ton/ac) 8 12
Consumption (lb DM/hd/day) inlcuding 20%19 residue 36 36
Total Acres required 19 13
Pre seed & In Crop herbicides plus app cost ($/acre) $24.00 $30.00
Total Input Costs ($/acre) includes pre-seed and in crop herbicide for both crops $219.00 $317.00
Feed - Cost/Cow/Day $1.41 $1.36

Corn can be a more economical grazing option than barley. 

An important feed source for animals

Pioneer corn silage products provide excellent early starch production for high energy feed and an early silage harvest. They also feature incredible stay-green characteristics for green harvest and high tonnage.

Corn has lower starch digestion rates per hour in rumen than barley, which means possibly lower incidence of acidosis, and better balance between rumen fermentation and intestinal digestion. When considering the best silage corn, look first at the importance of starch in the animal diet. It is well known that corn produces more tons per acre of wet silage on average than barley. Corn also has better water use efficiency compared to wheat, barley or oats (Teutsch, 2013).

Selecting a silage corn hybrid

When considering the best silage option for your operation, keep these important characteristics in mind:

  • Stalk and root strength
  • Plant health
  • Stress emergence
  • Disease tolerance

Dry matter yield

  • Biomass yield - influenced by plant height of the ear
  • Starch yield - influenced by grain yield of the ear

Starch content

  • Highest energy component of the corn plant is the kernel
  • Heavily influenced by harvest maturity of kernel
  • Short statured plants generally have high starch energy but may lack overall plant biomass tonnage 
  • When comparing feed sources of barley and corn, it is about which is providing the most energy for your animals. Barley does have some protein, but mature beef cows only require low amounts of protein (<10%) so energy needs to be a very important consideration.

Harvest stage and kernal processing

Other things to keep in mind about corn silage

  • Match the hybrid rating to the CHU of your location to ensure optimal biomass and starch yield production
  • At silage maturity, the corn plant is still producing starch – the longer it stays in the field, the more starch is produced
  • To ensure silage success, adhere to proper silage whole-plant moisture when determining harvest timing
  • When comparing costs of barley silage versus corn silage, use a per ton basis – while per acre costs are higher for corn silage, production costs on a per ton basis favour corn silage

Why Pioneer® brand Optimum® Acremax® corn is your best choice

Download the Optimum® Acremax® FAQ

Pioneer corn hybrids are bred for the west

Trusted by more growers in Canada than any other brand, Pioneer corn hybrids finish strong and dry down fast for earlier harvests and maximized profits. In fact, Pioneer currently has the earliest maturing corn hybrids in market. This is the direct result of having three active corn breeding programs in Western Canada (Carman, Saskatoon and Lethbridge), all focused on delivering early corn with fast dry down and high yields in a sound agronomic package. 

Choose from an extensive lineup of early maturity, grain, silage and grazing options for any operation and growing environment.

Multiple modes of action for enhanced defense against European Corn Borer

European Corn Borer can cause devastating yield and quality losses in corn across Western Canada. An ideal fit for any integrated pest management plan, Optimum® AcreMax® hybrids provide in-plant protection from above ground pests including European Corn Borer, Fall Armyworm and Black Cutworm. The multiple mode of action trait prevents insect feeding, which can result in stalk breakage and ear damage, to maximize corn yields and profits.

Simplified refuge compliance

Optimum® AcreMax® products offer improved insect control across a broader range of Corteva germplasm where growers do not need to plant a separate refuge in the field. This single bag product with integrated corn borer refuge provides the ultimate in simplicity, flexibility and convenience with maximized farm yields and technology preservation through refuge compliance. 

Strong agronomic performance

Across 34 corn products in Western Canada, Optimum® AcreMax® products have an average score of 6 for test weight, 6 for stalk strength and 6 for root strength. And for silage growers, 7 for fiber digestibility and 8 for starch content. 

Look for Pioneer® brand Optimum® AcreMax® products to get:

·         Simple insect protection & resistance management – all in one bag
·         Multiple traits & modes of action with above ground insect control
·         Maximum yield potential

Contact your Pioneer Sales Representative to learn more.