Select corn hybrids for stalk strength

Select corn hybrids for stalk strength

Planting corn hybrids that have the genetics to produce strong stalks is the first step to improving standability.

For Iowa corn farmers in 2015, stalks and standability were top of mind during harvest. Stalk integrity suffered quite a bit this past growing season in many fields, giving way to downed crops and deteriorated quality.

"It was a challenging year despite the high yields," recalls Mark Miller, a product development agronomist with Syngenta. "The corn got very tall with big ears; then nitrogen ran out late in the season in some fields. Add to that high-wind storms and hail, and stalks suffered."

HEALTHY CORN: Choosing the right hybrids to plant is critical to producing healthy corn. Hybrids that produce strong stalks and healthy ears have built-in resistance to disease and insect pressure.

Fortunately, there are ways to minimize the pain from these challenges if you plan ahead. Factors that can compromise stalk integrity, such as belowground insects, disease pressure and imperfect hybrid placement can all be managed through decisions made before the growing season even begins.

Pay attention to each corn hybrid's rating for standability

The first step to obtaining stronger stalks is straight-forward: consider planting hybrids that are rated high for stalk strength. Every hybrid is rated on this agronomic factor, so be sure to consider it when making seed selections.

The next step is to consider hybrids that have extra protection against belowground insects like corn rootworm. As noted by Iowa State University Extension, developed corn rootworms can cause damage to the root tissue, which is responsible for moving water and nutrients throughout the plant. This makes the crop more difficult to harvest, with stalks leaning over to one side or completely blowing over if the weather is severe enough.

STALK ROT: This photo compares stalk rot symptoms of various corn hybrids. Selecting the right hybrids, with resistance to stalk rot, can be the difference between having weak stalks that are easily damaged by weather and disease, and healthy stalks that stand tall come harvest time.

 "Hybrids such as Golden Harvest Corn G02W74-3000GT, G07F23-3111 and G14R38-3000GT brands demonstrated excellent stalk health and standability in Iowa this past season," Miller says. "Golden Harvest hybrid G14R38-3000GT brand, in particular, proved to be a solid performer, with a combination of strong stalk strength and protection from corn borer and corn rootworm."

Timely treatment with fungicide helps, if disease is present

Alan Hall, a farmer and Syngenta seed adviser from Manilla in western Iowa experienced these benefits firsthand in 2015. "One thing that was really impressive about Golden Harvest hybrid G14R38 brand is the yield stability," says Hall. "Yields went up to 300 bushels per acre, and we never saw the monitor go under 240 while we were harvesting it."

Beyond his hybrid selection, Hall also benefited from a timely fungicide application, another critical way to prevent compromised stalk integrity in the long run. Diseases such as northern corn leaf blight can greatly diminish the crop's health, which is why a timely treatment with a fungicide can make a big impact.

"It's pretty easy to tell the difference on stalk quality where a fungicide like Quilt Xcel was sprayed vs. not sprayed," Miller adds. "At the end of the day, you want your crops to be healthy and strong, so planning ahead now with good seed selection and crop protection will help you in 2016."

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