A New Way Forward

A New Way Forward from Central Valley Ag on Vimeo.

by Mike Zwingman

by Mike Zwingman

Because it’s a favorite topic of mine. And I haven’t talked about her all spring.

Eleanor.

She’s been upgraded, friends. Eleanor now has multi-hybrid functionality.

With the limitations of typical equipment, we probably get the right hybrid planted in the right soil about 50-70% of the time.  This, given the hours and hours you spend hand-wringing over the right selection. This, given the millions of dollars per year in training companies like CVA provide to enhance the matching of hybrid to environment.

The problem—or one of the problems—is that a field is a multitude of environments. We know this—we simply don’t have the technology to address it. And so we select and plant a hybrid that is the best approximate match for a majority of a field.

But that’s not good enough anymore. And the technology to boost us past this situation has arrived.

But it also ramps up a set of questions that, until now, we’ve only had to address perfunctorily. With the technology to actually make it happen, we suddenly need to get really good at what hybrid goes with what situation. And a multi-hybrid prescription? That’s about as easy as solving two Rubik’s cubes at once.

I’m aware that that might sound like hyperbole, but in this new world, it is anything but. Without the technology to implement multi-hybrid prescriptions, we’ve made hybrid choices on the most basic of characteristics. Mostly yield potential, right? With multi-hybrid capability though, we can and should start making choices based on many more detailed characteristics, and here is where the challenge presents itself. In this new world, in addition to yield potential, we’ll be looking also at things like germination strength, early season vigor, leaf area index, dry down, standability, plant height, ear height, and etc.

The new charge is to find compatible hybrids—to the environment and to each other. We’re heading toward the e-Harmony of hybrids—looking to match hybrids on multiple dimensions.

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To do this well, we’re going to need to do a lot of work. We’ll need to do multi-hybrid trials. We’ll need to work with our seed partners. We’ll need to examine situations at the soil level to understand how those dynamics will impact our decisions. We’ll need to use every tool in our toolbox here—EC maps, imaging, normalized yield data —all sorts of cool tools that suddenly become not just cool, but vitally important.

Then, we utilize the MZB Tools platform to merge it all together. If we do it right, lightning strikes. Art meets science, and you won’t be able to tell one from the other.

And we’ve already started. On April 22, we planted the first multi-hybrid prescription in a demo site in Cuba, KS. While the world was marching for science, we were applying it. And even though we’d been planning the day for a while, the execution was still awesome, in the true sense of the word. Because it was the day that multi-hybrid capability at Central Valley Ag became more than theory.