Preserving gains in corn yields
February 27, 2017
By Stefanie Croley
Even though it seems far away right now, another growing season is around the corner. Despite the frigid conditions outside, researchers are continually working indoors to develop new methods and technologies to better prepare you for what may come in the warmer months.
Across the border, scientists at the University of Missouri have made advancements in learning how corn plants combat the western corn rootworm – a ravenous corn pest that can be especially damaging in parts of southwestern Ontario. The pest’s eggs are deposited in the soil from July until a killing frost in the fall, then overwinter and begin hatching in early June. Adults emerge in late July and feed on silks and tassels.
The Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs (OMAFRA) outlines management strategies on its website, but ultimately reminds growers that rootworm has developed resistance to many forms of control, so it’s important to use control products only when necessary.
With that said, any new advances in breeding corn that can fight or resist these pests are welcome alternatives. The researchers involved in the University of Missouri project are making great progress on this front.
Richard Ferrieri, a research professor involved in the project, and his team used radioisotopes to trace essential nutrients and hormones as they moved through live corn plants, both healthy and rootworm-infested. Auxin, a powerful plant hormone, can stimulate new root growth, so the team followed auxin with a radioactive tracer to see exactly how it contributes to new growth. They also attached a radioactive tracer to glutamine, an amino acid important in controlling auxin chemistry, to study how the corn plants transport glutamine, and the relationship between glutamine and auxin biosynthesis.
The team found new understanding about root regrowth in crops that can fend off a rootworm attack. Auxin is tightly regulated at the root tissue level, where rootworms are feeding, and auxin biosynthesis is vital to root regrowth. Ultimately, the findings could help crop breeders develop new resistant lines of corn.
Sound complicated? Research like this may be beyond the scope of your daily practice, but our goal at Top Crop Manager is to keep you up-to-date with advancements like these so you’re already in the loop when new management strategies and recommendations come into effect.
We hope the information provided in these stories helps you make the best decisions for your farm.