From Madrid hybrid corn trials: Dairy researchers note silage digestibility more important than previously thought
Sunday, April 20, 2014 - 4:37 pm

The Northern New York Agricultural Development Program is calling producers’ attention to digestibility data included in the results of its regional 2013 corn silage hybrid trials.

“Most agronomists and animal nutritionists now believe that stover fiber digestibility is one of the most important hybrid characteristics affecting silage quality,” said William J. Cox, a Cornell University Crop and Soil Sciences professor. “Furthermore, some animal nutritionists believe that starch concentrations are no longer adequate in assessing corn silage hybrids for quality but rather starch digestibility of the grain is far more important,” said the lead researcher.

In 2013, Cox and Cornell University Crop and Soil Sciences professor Jerry Cherney collaborated with northern New York farmers to evaluate 37 hybrids in St. Lawrence County at the Greenwood Dairy Farm in Madrid and 39 hybrids in Jefferson County at Robbins Farms in Sackets Harbor.

“These corn silage hybrid trials help the region’s dairy producers identify the hybrids that show the strongest ability to produce the most tonnage yield with the highest quality under northern New York growing conditions,” Cox said.

The data from those trials is at

Seed companies released brown midrib (BRM) hybrids in the 1990s and 2000s, which provided dairy farmers with the choice of selecting hybrids with high fiber digestibility. Some of these hybrids, however, had agronomic challenges in the past, such as lower tonnage and lodging problems. Newer BMR hybrids, however, have less of a yield penalty and stand reasonably well except in severe wind storms.

“In the future, it is expected that seed companies will release hybrids that have higher starch digestibility, which will provide dairy farmers with the choice of selecting hybrids with both high fiber and high starch digestibility. Nevertheless, we also must evaluate the agronomic performance, including stand emergence under cool conditions, lodging tolerance, and yield, as well as silage quality of these new hybrids,” Cox said.

The NNYADP and Cornell University have evaluated numerous corn hybrids under different management practices including planting date, plant density, row spacing, N rate and timing, harvest date, and harvest cutting height over the last 30 years.

“In almost all instances, the selection of the hybrid has had a greater influence on silage quality than have management practices,” Cox said. “Consequently, we believe that hybrid selection is the most important management practice affecting corn silage quality in most growing seasons.”

Dairy producers in the six-county region (St. Lawrence, Lewis, Jefferson, Franklin, Clinton, and Essex) of northern New York planted 90,500 acres of corn silage in 2012, representing nearly 20 percent of the entire New York corn silage crop of about 475,000 acres that year.

The complete 2013 Corn Silage Hybrid Trials report with tables is posted at