Tips for evaluating corn hybrid demo plots
Check to see if foliar fungicides have been applied and what crop rotation has been followed. Typically you’ll encounter more severe foliar disease problems in no-till, continuous corn.
STALK ROTS. Hybrids will likely differ widely when faced with strong stalk rot pressure. Begin checking plants in late August or about 6 weeks after pollination by pinching lower stalk internodes with your thumb and forefinger. Stalks that collapse easily are a sure indicator of stalk rot. Remember that hybrids with thicker stalks may be in plots having thin stands.
LODGING. Perhaps as important as stalk rot resistance is the stalk strength characteristics of a hybrid. Sometimes, superior stalk strength will limit the adverse effects of stalk rot. If your variety plot is affected by stalk rot in late August and early September, evaluate stalk lodging of the different hybrids. Most agronomists characterize plants with stalks broken below the ear as ‘stalk lodged’ plants. In contrast, corn stalks leaning 30 degrees or more from the center are generally described as ‘root lodged’ plants; broken stalks are usually not involved. Root lodging can occur as early as the mid-to- late vegetative stages (as it did this year) and as late as harvest maturity. Both stalk and root lodging can be affected by hybrid susceptibility, environmental stress (drought), insect and disease injury.
Root lodging may be associated with western corn rootworm injury. However, much root lodging in Ohio occurs as the result of other factors, i.e. when a hybrid susceptible to root lodging is hit by a severe windstorm, like those we experienced in mid-July. A hybrid may be particularly sensitive to root lodging yet very resistant to stalk lodging. A cornfield may exhibit extensive root lodging in July but show little or no evidence of root lodging at harvest maturity in September (except for a slight “goose necking” at the base of the plant). This year some of our plots were subjected to more than one wind storm that caused root lodging. Some hybrids showed less recovery following the second wind storm, especially when plant populations exceeded 34-35,000 plants/A.
TRANSGENIC TRAITS: Because damage from European corn borer (ECB) and western corn rootworm (RW) can be very localized, strip plot demonstrations may be one of the best ways to assess the advantages of ECB Bt and RW Bt corns. The potential benefit of the ECB Bt trait is likely to be most evident in plots planted very early or very late; the potential benefit of the RW Bt trait is likely to be most evident in plots planted following corn or in a field where the first year western corn rootworm variant is present.
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