Mideast Organic Corn Variety Trial, 2012
By Michael Bomford, Jake Schmitz, and Tony Silvernail
This material has been adapted from a factsheet (715 KB PDF) and talk (1.8 MB PDF) presented at the Organic Corn Workshop in Bowling Green, KY, and a poster presented at the Southern Sustainable Agriculture Working Group conference in Little Rock, AR. Both events were in January, 2013.
Organic feed corn prices have fluctuated between $7 and $17 per bushel since 2011, reaching a record high in the fall of 2012 (price report PDF). High feed prices represent a barrier to organic livestock production, but also represent an opportunity for organic farmers who are able to grow their own corn.
Organic farmers are required to plant certified organic seed, if it is commercially available. Conclusions drawn from conventional variety trials are not necessarily applicable to organic operations.
- Aid organic corn growers in the Mid-East region in selection of varieties based on data specifically suited to their regional climate and soils.
- Demonstrate successful organic corn production systems to farmers interested in working with the crop.
In the summer of 2012, Organic Valley and
Kentucky State University coordinated organic corn variety
trials on ten organic farms across Indiana, Kentucky, Ohio,
and Pennsylvania. The western part of this region suffered
moderate to extreme drought for much of the summer.
| Approximate locations of farms
involved in organic corn variety trial, relative to
Mideastern cities. Each participating farm is shown by
an ear of corn.
|Drought progression across Mideastern US between April and September, 2012. Yellow pins show locations of farms involved in organic corn variety trial.|
Short, medium, and full season varieties donated by five
organic seed companies were compared at each location. Each
variety was tested in four rows on at least four organic
farms, using standard production practices employed by
experienced farm managers. Rows ran the entire field length.
Farms served as replicates; treatments were not replicated on
Harvest was conducted from a 20-foot row section, beginning
20 feet from the end of the second row for each variety.
Yield is reported on a 15% dry matter basis.
Organic corn varieties planted at the Kentucky State University Research and Demonstration Farm, 2012. Drag image to pan. Click arrow in top right corner of image to zoom to full screen.
|Season Requirement||American Organic (AO)||Blue River Organic Seeds (BR)||Doebler's Pennsylvania Hybrids (DB)||Great Harvest Organics (GH)||Masterís Choice (MC)|
|Short (<95 days)
|Medium (95-105 days)||4G10||4G52
|Full (>105 days)
The average yield for the trial was 142 bu/ac, exceeding the national average yield of 123 bu/ac (USDA-ERS tables). Yield varied significantly between locations, ranging from 64 bu/ac in western Indiana to 190 bu/ac in central Ohio. Drought severity probably accounted for much of the difference between locations. Differences between varieties were less pronounced than differences between locations.
|Bushels per acre
|Average yield (bu/ac) of organic corn
at each of the ten trial locations. Means shown by
green bars are significantly higher than those shown
by red bars (t-test, α=0.05).
|Bushels per acre
|Average yield (bu/ac) of organic corn for each of 22 varieties tested. Means shown by green bars are significantly higher than those shown by yellow bars (t-test, α=0.05).|
Top performing varieties were:
The trial is being expanded and repeated in 2013.
- American Organic, Blue River Organic Seeds, Doebler's Pennsylvania Hybrids, Great Harvest Organics, and Master's Choice (Seed suppliers)
- Jake Schmitz, Kevin Kiehnau, and Lowell Rheinheimer (Organic Valley)
- Tony Silvernail, Jon Cambron and Joni Nelson (KSU)
- Lori Hoagland (Purdue Univ.)
- Peter Thomison (Ohio State Univ.)
- Doug Billman, Charles Eselgroth, Dan Fullencamp, Roger Garland, Lloyd Martin, and Dave Osterloh (Farmer Cooperators)