Planting seed blends isn’t a new concept. In the past, companies sold blends to combine seeds of different characteristics in a field to produce the highest yield. But during the last three to four decades seed companies moved to selling varieties with a single source of genetics with very particular specifications, which growers could choose and place in a particular field.
But today maybe blends make sense and maybe they should come back? “Our combination soybean products, which we call CROPLAN® WinPak™ varieties, allow us to better target varieties to variable fields and environments,” said Jack Carlson, soybean director at Winfield. “Combining two varieties into a single product enables us to manage variability within fields and buffer the effects of weather and soil types on diseases and other stresses. And our CROPLAN team combines varieties that maximize overall yield potential with a unique combination of two soybean varieties that help growers realize the full potential of all their acres in a specific field.”
So what constitutes a CROPLAN WinPak blend? Carlson explained that a WinPak blend consists of two complementary varieties. “All varieties have their strengths and weakness and WinPak products can take advantage of this. When selecting varieties for our WinPak product, we line up their strengths and weaknesses. Where one variety is weak the other will be strong and vice versa.”
As an example Carlson explained that they will choose a defensive variety with particular traits for a region and combine it with a racehorse variety that will yield but won’t be as strong defensively. And when a grower visits his field they often see more flowers or pods of the defensive variety in a marginal area and more flowers or pods of the racehorse variety in areas with better soils.
So besides choosing varieties that complement each other’s strengths and weaknesses, what other characteristics are considered? Carlson explained that in a WinPak product they target varieties with yield potential and similar maturityratings. Maturity groupings in WinPak products are typically only one or two days different, such as a 3.0 and 3.1 or 3.2. However in the Northern Corn Belt, with an MG of 2 or less, they combine very similar maturities so growers don’t experience a frost risk in the fall. They also select phenotypes with similar height and canopy structure.
Carlson said that while the combined varieties complement each other in the fields, seeing a yield bump still depends. “The yields of the blended varieties are almost always equal to or better than the yields of the original varieties when planted alone. In some years, when fields are stressed from diseases or weather, yields of the WinPak products often perform better than either of the individual components.”
Does planting blended varieties sound like a good variety selection strategy in the future? If your variety selections aren’t performing as you expect, maybe an appropriate blend could give you the bump you are looking for.
Agronomist Dr. Daniel Davidson posts blogs on agronomy-related topics. Feel free to contact him at email@example.com.