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Think like a corn plant to improve management

Randy Dowdy, the 2016 National Corn Growers Association yield winner from Valdosta, Ga., recently told an audience that to get high yields, “Think like a corn plant.” The appearance of the leaves, stalks and roots can tell you what they need.

If you understand how corn plants grow and what they need for growth, you can do a better job of increasing yields by providing them things in your control to keep them productive! Here are four management tips that will help you think like a corn plant.

1. It is important that most of the seedlings emerge at about the same time. Plants that emerge later will lag behind and be worse than weeds because they can’t be killed. It’s also important to provide equal spacing to each individual plant. Plants that are too close to each other may produce nubbins.

2. Understand how plants grow and operate. Green plants have microscopic “windows” called stomata that can be opened or shut as needed.

The stomata are used by the plants to exchange gases from the atmosphere.

During photosynthesis, plants absorb carbon dioxide from air and water, and nutrients from the soil through their roots. With the help of light and heat from the sun, they create sugars, starches, oils, proteins and many other compounds.

Plants use stomata as a defense mechanism against heat and drought. When the leaves of corn plants curl up, they shut these “windows” to reduce transpiration and respiration rates. Plants are under stress then and not very productive.

3. Before there were plants, the atmosphere had abundant carbon dioxide and no oxygen. Carbon dioxide is made of one carbon atom and two oxygen atoms. Plants absorb carbon dioxide and release oxygen into the atmosphere through the stomatal openings during the day.

At night, plants respire and don’t release any oxygen back into the atmosphere. Plants slow down during the night and deposit products of photosynthesis where needed. During vegetative growth, these products, called photosynthates, are used to build leaves, stalks, tassels and ears. After pollination is complete, during the grain-fill period, sugars, starches, oils and proteins are deposited in the grain.

4. The objective of every corn plant is to produce as many viable progeny, or kernels, as possible. The number of viable kernels possible is based on genetics and environment. Both the macroclimate, such as soil type, weather, water and nutrients, and the microenvironment, such as competition from weeds or other corn plants, are important. Each plant produces as many kernels as possible based on its own local environment.

A corn plant will sacrifice other parts of the plant to fill the needs of the growing embryos in the kernels. Nutrient and water deficiency can result in plants sending photosynthates from leaves and stalks to the kernels. This may cause weak stalks, lodging and reduced yields.

Knowing how plants grow and work allows you to make better decisions and produce higher yields.

(Source – http://www.indianaprairiefarmer.com/corn/think-corn-plant-improve-management)

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