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Corn (Zea mays) products should be selected based on their performance across multiple locations and years and the desired end-use of the product (grain, silage, ethanol, food grade, etc). Observations should be made for consistency in yield, emergence and vigor, standability, disease tolerance, adaptability to soil types, tillage, population, stress tolerance, and other agronomic factors (Figure 1). The usual first question for selecting products is “How does it yield compared to X?” However, maximization of potential yield is an interaction of many factors. Yield goals are unlikely to be achieved if products lodge, lack drought tolerance for the soil type, respond poorly to high populations, or have sensitivity to certain herbicides.
Figure 1. In addition to yield potential, when selecting corn products, key characteristics to consider are disease tolerance for diseases such as gray leaf spot (top left), emergence and early vigor (top right), and strong roots and stalks to help avoid stalk lodging (bottom).
Selecting a package of products that fit the needs of each field is an excellent way of helping to reduce risk from environmental stress. Adapted early-, mid-, and full-season products with varied pollination dates can help reduce the effect upon the entire corn crop should high heat or drought occur during pollination. Varied Relative Maturities (RM) based on Growing Degree Units (GDU) can also help stagger harvest because maturity (black layer) and loss of moisture content should occur at different times.
High product emergence scores are particularly important for early planting situations and into conservation tillage programs such as no-till and strip-till. Seed treatments from the Acceleron
® portfolio should be considered to help maximize emergence by protecting seed and seedlings from soilborne diseases and insects as well as moisture and nutrient stress.
Adaptability to populations should be considered based on soil types and fertility (soil available and planned applications). Those that try to maximize populations on highly productive soils should consider stalk strength and disease ratings. Disease tolerance or resistance should be closely reviewed and products selected based on each field’s disease history. As an example, corn products for creek/river bottoms should have high ratings for gray leaf spot tolerance. Appropriate foliar fungicides can help reduce the impact of foliar diseases; however, initial product selection is an important investment-wise first step.
Figure 2. Biotech traits can help protect plants from European corn borer (left), corn earworm (middle), and corn rootworm root damage (right).
Value-added biotech traits should also be considered. Depending on the trait and product, these products can be protected from individual or a combination of insects such as European corn borer, corn earworm, and corn rootworm larvae (Figure 2). Products with biotech resistance to herbicides such as glyphosate and glufosinate can help reduce the potential for crop herbicide injury, help increase the opportunity for overall weed control, and help manage the potential for weed resistance.
Trecepta® Technology is the first technology that targets corn earworm with 3 B.t. protein modes of action (MOA) protection. In addition, the technology offers protection for black cutworm (1 MOA), western bean cutworm (1 MOA), fall armyworm (3 MOA), Southwestern corn borer (3 MOA), and European corn borer (2 MOA).
DroughtGard® Hybrids with the industry’s first and only drought-tolerance biotech trait can help reduce the impact of drought and high heat events (Figure 3). In areas prone to drought, these products should be considered.
Figure 3. DroughtGard® Hybrids biotech drought-tolerance can help protect products from drought stress such as reduced kernel row number.
Continuous corn requires special attention because of disease pathogens and insects that either survive on or within corn residue or soil. Under these situations, products with high ratings for plant characteristics (emergence, vigor, root and stalk strength, disease resistance) are important. Additionally, products with multiple biotech insect resistance traits such as SmartStax® Technology products should be considered to help protect yield potential.