“No plant left behind” is the motto of Purdue University researcher Tony Vyn, who is working to increase grain yield for corn at higher plant densities.
“The only way to pursue and achieve higher grain yields on a per-acre basis at high plant densities is to make sure that every single plant has the opportunity to compete with its neighbor in the row,” said Vyn. “The only way to achieve this competition ability is to have the genetic resources, in terms of a hybrid’s ability to compete and gain access to nutrients and water.”
Vyn recently completed a three-year study, which looked at approximately 4,000 individual plants each of the three years to understand how individual plants compete with neighbors at three different plant densities and three different nitrogen rates.
“As we’ve tried to push yield barriers beyond 300 and 350 bushels per acre, it’s extremely important that we think about the ability of the plant to tolerate not just a single stress like high plant density, but also be able to tolerate lower nitrogen availability on a per-plant basis,” Vyn said. “Our results suggest that on the plant breeding side of the equation, more attention should be focused on the joint ability of new corn hybrids to tolerate combined stresses of both high plant density and limited nitrogen.
“If the new hybrids can better tolerate both, then it will be possible for those high-density, low-nitrogen situations to achieve an overall improvement in uniformity of grain yield on a per-plant basis.”