Chandler Bruns, Social Media Manager, Rooster Strategic Solutions

Harvest is a great time to evaluate the seed choices you made last spring. It’s also the best time to think about the hybrids you’ll choose next year.

The stakes are higher than ever. Seed investment counts for anywhere from 15 to 25 percent of a row crop farm’s total production costs. With a dizzying number of hybrids from which to choose – and margins as low as they’ve been in recent memory – selecting the right seed is critical.  And farmers today aren’t locked into a single seed company; if there’s a chance to jump ship and diversify their seed holdings, most farmers will take that chance. Basically, it’s worth doing some research to get even a little bit of gain.

Obviously, yield potential is one of the most important drivers of seed decisions. Farmers will also pore over a number of other factors, such as yield consistency, agronomic characteristics, trait packages, and hybrid maturity.  Where do they find all this data? Seed companies publish a tremendous amount, and it’s a great place to start. University trials offer unbiased rankings of multiple brands and can be trusted.

But there’s one factor that’s more important than any other, and knowing this is the key to seed decisions: Will this hybrid work on MY fields? Unless a farmer or local cooperative has sophisticated performance trials to evaluate – and most don’t – this question remains unanswered. Unless you look in the right place.

The FIRST step to higher yields. Farmers’ Independent Research of Seed Technologies (FIRST) has been providing farmers with timely, unbiased comparisons of seed genetics for almost 25 years. It’s an independent association of farmers and field research businesses organized to measure and report the yield and agronomic performance of corn and soybean products, and is made available to farmers, consultants, agronomists, and seed company representatives – basically anybody who can benefit from knowing how different hybrids performed in a wide variety of settings.

Best of all, it’s provided at no cost. You can look at 2020 yield performance as it’s reported at

All seed decisions are local – or should be, anyway. The FIRST mission started in 1997 when 64 corn hybrids from 14 seed company sponsors were tested at 12 sites in Illinois. Today, those numbers have skyrocketed: 2020 results can be evaluated from 330 different sites in 15 states that compare more than 1000 different hybrids and 750 soybean varieties. A quick glance at the map on their website makes it easy for farmers to find trials in their areas to answer that elusive and important question: will this work in MY field.

FIRST means FAST. As I mentioned earlier, the best time to think about next year’s seed choices are during this year’s harvest, which means that farmers are starting to make their decisions as their combines are marching across corn and soy acres. Waiting for weeks or months to see how the 2020 hybrids performed isn’t an option. That’s why FIRST delivers real local yield information to farmers generally within 2 days of harvest. You can even sign up to have local results delivered straight to your inbox, also at no cost.

Seriously, look at their website. I found a trial near my family’s farm that was harvested yesterday. It contains information on the top 30 hybrids tested from 16 companies including yield, moisture, stand, fertility, soil conditions, plus extensive field notes. And there are several others in our area that we’ll evaluate as soon as those harvests are reported. Looking at multiple trials in conditions that mirror ours will give us a significant advantage in choosing the hybrids that can provide an edge next year.

And that’s the beauty of the data from FIRST. It’s timely. It’s free. It’s accurate. And it’s actionable. Answering the question, “Will it work on my family’s farm,” just got a whole lot easier.