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Today's hybrids produce more, tougher residue.

Tom J Bechman 1, Editor, Indiana Prairie Farmer

October 10, 2006

2 Min Read

Landoll Corporation was so convinced that knocking down corn residue would be an issue for farmers, especially for those looking two years or more of corn in the same field, that they introduced their first-ever true disk. Before the company primarily specialized in soil finishing equipment, including one-pass tools- primarily designed to prepare for planting in the spring.

The company even painted the desk blue instead of the traditional Landoll yellow and black. Sales reps expect more blue paint to appear on implements developed and released by the company in future years.

Part of the reasoning for bringing out a disk, Landoll reps say, is that farmers tell them Bt corn stalks are tougher to handle and start on their way to complete breakdown. That may be true, says Tony Vyn, Purdue University tillage specialist. But he contends there are several other factors as well.

"We have higher-yielding hybrids than in the past," Vyn says, "That's what breeders are breeding for. Today's hybrids tend to also have higher levels of carbohydrates in stalk tissue, since more food is produced to supply the higher yield. That adds to stalk toughness as well."

Many of these hybrids stay green longer in the fall than their counterpart hybrids of even five or 10 years ago. If they stay green longer they are less prone to stalk rot and other diseases that tend to take stalks down and weaken them in the fall. Weaker stalks tend to decay faster and are easier to handle in tillage operations than stalks that stay green longer.

There's also the population factor, he adds. "Our populations are higher today, and it adds to more stalk residue to handle," he says. "It's not because stalks are any bigger in diameter than before, it's just because there are more of them to handle."

Total fertilizer rates tend to be higher today than a few years back. Vyn sees that as another contributor to hybrids that stay green longer into the season. Any hybrids that stay green further into the season will tend to produce residue that's tougher to handle in tillage operations, he notes.

"Nitrogen levels used today compared to many years ago tend to be higher, and so are potassium levels," he says. Potassium is a key nutrient for stalk strength and quality in corn.

Vyn doesn’t deny that Bt hybrids are a factor in better stalk health and slower residue breakdown as well. But it's not because the rind of the stalk is any harder or tougher.

"There are simply no feeding holes in the stalk," he says. "That's bound to favor better stalk quality later in the season, which leads to more residue to handle for those who want to do fall tillage."

About the Author(s)

Tom J Bechman 1

Editor, Indiana Prairie Farmer

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