In January 2019, Ohio State University / Ohio Agriculture Research and Development Center was approached by a representative of the organic seed industry inquiring if an organic corn performance test would be possible. Organic seed suppliers were contacted to gauge their interest and gather input on test protocol. The end result, 35 organic hybrids representing 7 commercial brands were submitted for evaluation in the new Organic Corn Performance Test. The tests were conducted on certified organic fields in Apple Creek and Wooster (Fry and West Badger Farms) and intensively managed for nutrients and weed control. Each hybrid entry was evaluated using four replications per site in a randomized complete block design. Hybrids were planted either in an early or full season maturity test based on relative maturity information provided by the companies. The relative maturity of hybrid entries in the early maturity trial was 106 days or earlier; the relative maturity of hybrid entries in the full season trial was 107 days or later. The planting rate was 34,000 seeds/acre with a final stand target of 30K – 31K plants/acre. Composted manure and Chilean Nitrate were applied according to recommended cultural practices for obtaining optimum grain yields.
The spring of 2019 was one the wettest on record and resulted in major planting delays throughout Ohio. According to the National Agricultural Statistics Service, only 33% of Ohio's corn was planted by June 2. The Organic OCPT fields were planted May 24th and 25th into fields with optimal soil moisture & temperature for uniform emergence and early growth. Frequent rain events continued into June limiting weed control opportunities. Timely rains in August and September, combined with above average temperatures, were favorable for corn development and extended the grain fill period. Diplodia ear rot was observed in a few hybrids at low levels. Stalk lodging, while present, was generally one or two nodes below the ear node and did not impact harvestability for most hybrids. The Wooster/Apple Creek areas were fortunate and missed most of the weather extremes experienced in other parts of Ohio. Excellent conditions throughout the growing season minimized stress.
Despite delayed planting dates, above normal rainfall and warmer than normal conditions during grain fill, Organic OCPT yields exceeded expectations. Averaged across hybrid entries in the early and full season tests, yields were 236 bu/A. Yields at individual test sites, averaged across hybrid entries in the early and full season tests, ranged from 232 bu/A at Apple Creek to 240 bu/A at Wooster.
Confidence in test results increases with the number of years and the number of locations in which the hybrid was tested. Look for consistency in a hybrid's performance across a range of environmental conditions. Yield, standability, grain moisture, and other comparisons should be made between hybrids of similar maturity to determine those best adapted to your farm. Results of the crop performance trials for 2019 are available online at: http://www.oardc.ohio-state.edu/organiccorntrials. Hybrids can be sorted by yield, brand, and other variables online.