Editor’s note: You can listen to my conversation with Mike Zwingman by clicking on the Soundcloud link above.
It's no secret to most that modern corn hybrids yield better than hybrids of 10 or 20 years ago, but how has this affected nitrogen demands? Mike Zwingman, technical development manager at Verdesian Life Sciences, notes nitrogen demands have shifted, with modern hybrids seeing nitrogen uptake last longer into the season. However, it isn't just thanks to modern, higher-yielding hybrids.
"It's really two shifts at once. One, there's been a shift in genetics. And if you look at the yield increase curve for the United States, the average yield and how it moves up 3.5% or 2.5% or 1.5% per year, you can contribute half of that to genetics and you can contribute the other half to management," Zwingman explains.
"If you look at genetics, we've definitely been on a yield first or yield primary decision-making in plant breeding where it doesn't necessarily trump all the other characteristics on a hybrid, but it's definitely the one that weighs the most. So, one, we have a higher yield potential per unit of seed than we ever had before," he adds. "The second thing is in the last 20 years we've really ratcheted up our management styles. Plant populations have gone up; the way we've irrigated has moved up. We've done all these little things, and the combination of the two of them means the corn plant takes up nitrogen at different times or a little bit longer than we first thought."