Taking advantage of North Dakota Weather: Yield is not the only trait to look at in corn hybrids

Taking advantage of North Dakota Weather: Yield is not the only trait to look at in corn hybrids 2017-03-15T08:52:50+00:00

Compared to other corn producing U.S. states farmers in North Dakota are especially challenged by the weather. North Dakota farmers also know more than anyone that the yield a hybrid can give is as important as other corn important characteristics such as lodging resistance, green snap resistance, cold and drought tolerance, and fast dry down.

North Dakota farmers had the advantage to witness how unstable corn hybrids were in 2011 and 2012 for these traits. While green snap susceptibility was highly present in 2011 hybrids, drought and lodging susceptibility was largely present for 2012 hybrids in farmer fields, especially in southeastern North Dakota.

The NDSU corn breeding program is known for being the most northern public research program in North America moving corn north to cooler areas and west to drier regions. It is strategically located to develop corn under extreme environmental conditions. While extreme weather can be a disadvantage for production it is a breeding advantage to screen and discard unstable, weak corn varieties. Breeding for adaptation to climate changes is best done under target challenging but uniform environmental conditions where hybrid strengths and weaknesses are quickly identified and the most stable ones succeed.

The NDSU corn breeding program has over 20 state locations for corn breeding research serving all farmers equally independent from their location (high and low industry investment). It cooperates with over 10 industry partners for technology access and has released 38 short-season corn products in the past 10 years. In 2011 NDSU products were heavily demanded. Seven lines were exclusively submitted to an industry partner. These were evaluated and 4 were advanced further for crossing and trait integration which was considered “a huge success rate,” “One of the inbred lines looked so good, that it looked like a commercial hybrid and likely could be a good seed producer”. The 4 inbred lines moving forward did not exhibit green snap in an area that was hit pretty hard with two major windstorms in early and late July (commercial products did show very significant green snap). The following are notes from industry on NDSU new products: “Strong early good vigor, tall inbreds, no green snap, nice long ears, third earliest flowering”.  Two more exclusive agreements have been developed with the additional significant benefit of accessing breeding rights. In one particular case, it has been negotiated to obtain 80% of royalties to develop better industry materials, which is a huge trust on our strong breeding efforts. So far, 2011 data on lines derived from NDSU x industry populations showed very promising results and validate the commercial potential of the lines released.

The NDSU corn breeding program planted 39 (in 2011) and 36 (in 2012) experiments across >20 state locations. Data across 2011 and 2012 showed that several NDSU corn products were not only very competitive in yield but also demonstrated stability across years with high levels of green snap and lodging resistance as well as cold/drought tolerance, and fast dry down. Six of these lines were provided to our industry partner in April 2012 and carry tropical genes adapted to North Dakota. NDSU is the sole provider of these products.

We have received hundreds of cultivar requests for earliness, yield, drought and cold tolerance, green snap and lodging resistance, fast dry down, unique genetic diversity, and high test weight and grain quality. These genetic materials have unique genes not present in the genome recently sequenced. From the latest six NDSU corn releases, one has demonstrated excellent cold tolerance for northern North Dakota (ND) and Minnesota (MN). This product will be available from our industry partners in 2013.