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Breeders emphasize resisting green snap today

Corn Illustrated: This slideshow shows how one hybrid may suffer green snap while another hybrid right next to it may not.

You can learn a great deal when you take stand counts just before harvest. In the Indiana Prairie Farmer and Purdue University corn hybrid trial at the Throckmorton ag research center near Romney, Ind., in 2017, one conclusion became apparent. Karen Mitchell, the Tippecanoe County Extension ag educator who was serving as recorder, soon noticed that one of the two hybrids in the trial only had plant stubs, often 6 to 12 inches tall, remaining here and there. Often, the stubs were in groups of three or more. There were no stubs in the other hybrid.

The plot compared two hybrids at five different seeding rates in a trial replicated three times. The goal was to determine the most economical seeding rate. Bob Nielsen, Purdue Extension corn specialist, will compute the data soon.

Meanwhile, this was one of those teachable moments. Daniel Bechman, product support specialist for Beck’s, which donated the seed for the plot, concluded that stubs were left after green snap occurred. Pete Illingsworth, the Throckmorton assistant who managed the plot, noted there had been several storms with strong winds during the growing season.

Green snap phenomenon
Kevin Cavanaugh, director of research for Beck’s, says the difference in hybrids probably occurred because they were at slightly different stages of maturity when the event occurred. Hybrids tend to be most vulnerable to green snap shortly before tasseling, he says.

At one time the ability to withstand wind and avoid green snap was less of a priority for corn breeders in the eastern Corn Belt, Cavanuagh notes. Traditionally, high winds tended to be more problematic in western Corn Belt states. Plus, until a few short decades ago, farmers planted at 26,000 seeds per acre. Green snap tends to be minimal at lower populations.

Today, developing as much resistance to green snap as possible is a priority for corn breeders everywhere, Cavanaugh says. “Weather has grown more unpredictable, and we’ve had multiple storms all over the Corn Belt over the past few years.

“More importantly, farmers are planting thicker. At today’s higher populations, stalk diameter is often smaller, and plants can catch wind more easily.

Studying green snap
Cavanaugh wasn’t surprised that Mitchell noticed three or more consecutive plants in the row were often stubs, meaning all three were victims of green snap. “Plants tend to lean on each other,” he says. “If one snaps and falls into the next one, it may cause it to snap.”

Sometimes the stubs grouped together were relatively close, meaning they possibly had even smaller stalk diameter than elsewhere.

“[Beck’s has] 110 precommercial trials across the country,” Cavanaugh says. “Each year, four or five of those get hit with a storm that causes green snap. Our breeders rush to evaluate how various hybrids held up. Green snap in a plot is terrible for yield data, but it’s an opportunity to learn about this trait in hybrids.”

Check out the slideshow to see photos of the impact of green snap.

Editor’s note: Daniel Bechman is the author’s son.

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