Top Crop Manager

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Standability key to delivering yield

In plant breeding, yield is the number one characteristic that we select for and standability comes next

November 13, 2007  By Top Crop Manager

50aCorn breeder, Adrian de Dreu is always thinking about harvest and how the hybrids
he develops will stand up to the rigours of the growing season. "In plant
breeding, yield is the number one characteristic that we select for and standability
comes next," says de Dreu, who develops hybrids for NK Brand, Syngenta
Seeds. "You want a lot of grain on your plants, but you have problems when
corn falls down. If you can't get it through the combine, you can't harvest

It can be tempting to make planting decisions on yield alone, but de Dreu cautions
against this approach. When selecting hybrids, he recommends one of the first
things growers should do is determine when they want to harvest and how long
the crop will have to stand.

"Standability is especially important if you are a cash cropper and you
want the corn to dry down in the field until the middle of November to minimize
drying charges," says de Dreu. "But if you plan to put up high moisture
corn that can be taken off three weeks earlier, it's not as important."


de Dreu says growers who plant large acreage can profit from taking a strategic
approach to yield and standability when selecting hybrids. "If growers
have 2000 acres, they may choose a high yielding hybrid that has some standability
issues for a portion of their acreage. That hybrid needs to come off first.
But they need 500 acres of a hybrid that will stand for later harvest."

Another consideration is whether custom combining is required. "If you
have a crop that's falling over, you can expect to be last on the custom operator's
list," says de Dreu.

Overall plant health, stalk strength and root strength are three key characteristics
that contribute to standability. Growers have a number of options to improve
standability: from traits that provide in-plant corn borer and corn rootworm
protection to seed treatment that defends against soilborne insects and disease.
When selecting hybrids, de Dreu recommends that growers take a close look at
stalk strength and root strength ratings found in seed guides. "Those ratings
are developed based on research and strip trial data. Within a company, you
can easily make direct comparisons by just looking up the rating for root and
stalk lodging."

When developing hybrids, the challenge for breeders, like de Dreu, is to select
for root and stalk strength traits and also deliver the yields growers require.
"We have to remember that every year is different when it comes to challenges
such as weather and disease. If you don't have excellent plant health, you may
have some degree of standability, but it will be unpredictable. That's one thing
we can't have," says de Dreu. "We need hybrids that are consistent
across years and locations. As soon as you lose the plant health, the plant
will disintegrate rapidly."

Making standability a part of the hybrid selection process will pay yield dividends
to growers, says de Dreu. "When you combine plant health with the yield
potential we've developed, we are seeing big yield increases. We're producing
a corn crop that's become more stable to grow and harvest." 


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