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Corn Emerges in Corn Illustrated Plots

Difference in genetics of last 80 years already evident.

Corn at the Corn Illustrated plots in south-central Indiana is barely out of the ground, and the plots are already beginning to yield data. In fact, some more recently-planted corn has yet to emerge, and even more corn will be planted there. Later plantings are designed to help determine the effect of planting date vs. yield potential, and to help discover how early and full-season hybrids react when planted at various stages during the growing season.

Dave Nanda and Tom J. Bechman, the pair doing the work on these plots, planted 9 different hybrids with genetics ranging from the past to the present in two replicated blocks on May 1. Beck's Hybrids, Atlanta, Ind., provided the seed for these plots. Genetics include the most popular public hybrid for the '30's era, plus popular commercial hybrids from the '50s, 70s, 90s and today.

In both replications, five of the nine hybrids were up about 2-3 inches tall, at the V1 stage, on May 11. These included hybrids of the '70's genetics, plus later genetics of the past 20 years. However, only a few plants from the other four entries- the earlier genetics- were at the same stage. Emergence was minimal on those plots. However, quick digging showed that in at least some instances, the spike from the new seedling was almost ready to poke through the ground.

The seed was planted into nearly ideal conditions, both weather-wise and soil-wise. So far weather at the farm near Edinburgh, Ind., has been warm for May. In fact, the first 10 days of May are on a record warm pace for the Indianapolis area, weather sources report. Soil moisture just below the surface was still evident for new plantings made last Friday.

The soil tends to be droughty, but not early in the season. The three feet of topsoil and subsoil over gravel is not sandy, as you might expect on a gravelly soil. Instead, it's an easy-to-manage loam, a nice mix with a medium texture. It has nearly ideal moisture-holding capacity- until roots reach the gravel area in mid-summer during dry spells.

Last year, the differences between three hybrids, representing genetics from the '70s, '90s and 2000s, was striking. But cool weather set in after planting on May 9, and the planting was at a different location, in heavier clay soils. And the earliest genetic material was not treated with a seed treatment in '06, while the other two hybrids were treated.

This year, Becks treated all nine hybrids with the same seed treatment product before shipping the seed for use in the plots. However, not all of the seed was new production. That could prove to be a complicating factor.

However, ask your grandfather or neighbor who farmed in the past. It's likely you'll find that 10-14 days to emerge was more common then, even when corn was usually planted May 10-20, often into warmer soils than today.

We'll keep you abreast of developments in the plot, including how well these older genetics fare. Plans call for evaluating emergence and vigor on a rating scale while the plants are seedlings, but then also carrying this experiment to yield, so that it might be possible to more closely gauge impact of recent advances in hybrid genetics and other related-technologies.

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