Besides looking at new traits, plant breeders are paying close attention to each new corn hybrid’s reaction to various production practices. These include a hybrid’s performance with post-emergence herbicides, foliar fungicides, different seeding rates, various planting dates, continuous corn and nitrogen usage.
“It’s critical for growers to understand the value of each trait and a hybrid’s reaction to various production practices,” says Bruce Battles, agronomy marketing manager for Syngenta Seeds.
Looking at specific needs, Battles says this means continuing to develop hybrids that offer high soil pH tolerance, specific silage traits, increased grain feed value and improved ethanol performance.
One of the hot research areas is the development of drought-tolerant corn, with most seed companies either working on developing this trait or making plans to license it from other firms. By combining native traits, functional genomics and transgenics, hybrids are being developed to make more efficient use of both available moisture and irrigation water.
“The key is to reduce moisture needs on current cropland,” says Roger Kemble, head of crop genetics research with Syngenta’s biotechnology group. “Development of this trait may result in less yield loss in dry years, less need for irrigation in normal years and no yield drag under moisture-adequate conditions. It should also improve the productivity from currently marginal cropland. The key is to be able to increase kernel weight under dry conditions.”
Battles says growers can’t afford to skimp on nitrogen with the wrong hybrids. “You need to know when…