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Plant Striping Natural to Some Hybrids

Plants beginning to show hybrid traits in plots.

Suppose you've planted tow hybrids side-by-side- one hybrid in six boxes, another in the other six on a 12-row planter. That's exactly what happened in the nitrogen trail at the Corn Illustrated Test Plots now underway on Jim Facemire's farm near Edinburgh, Ind.

The plots are sponsored by Farm Progress Companies. The Indiana magazine in the Farm Progress stable is Indiana Prairie Farmer. Dave Nanda, a plant breeder with 40 years of experience in breeding corn, is assisting as consultant on the plots. He is also currently president of Bird Hybrids LLC, Tiffin, Ohio.

What do you think those plants look like by now, at about the six-leaf stage, using the full leaf-collar method? In some fields perhaps it's tough to tell that much difference between hybrids yet, but not in the Corn Illustrated plots. Both are growing well, but one has a darker green cast across the rows. Nitrogen of various rates, including zero all the way to 250 pounds per acre, were applied last week, on May 29.

But it's not the difference in nitrogen rates that's showing yet. It's a clear, not breath-taking, but yet obvious pattern in blocks of rows, depending upon which hybrid was planted. The greener rows, of the one hybrid, also appear to be slightly taller at this point in the season.

The most noticeable trait, however, is that the paler green, slightly shorter hybrid exhibits veinal striping on many leaves, especially upper leaves. It's not distinct yellow or white vs. greed striping, but it's noticeable, especially compared to plants of the other hybrid. The striping effect is not visible on those leaves.

Some farmers have found that reason for concern, and called their seedsman. However, Nanda assures farmers that it's just a characteristic that hybrid exhibits at this stage in its growth cycle. Hybrids have different phenotypes, or expression of traits- this one develops light striping on some leaves at one point.

Farmers are concerned when they first see it because distinct striping can be a sign of nutritional problems, particularly manganese deficiency. If stunting and white discoloration is also involved, it may be a sign of a shortage of zinc.

However, Nanda says that in this case, it's just the plants expressing a hereditary trait of the hybrid. It's noticeable, but it's not a factor to be concerned about as to whether it will impact yield, he notes.

Much more should be learned about hybrid differences through the Corn Illustrated plots. Hand-planted plots include 60 1/1000th acre rows of 60 distinctly different hybrids, some of them yet experimental- others already established and on the market. As these hybrids grow, Nanda intends to observe them carefully, looking both for traits that would impact yield, and traits that are simply part of the phenotype of the hybrid. Look for more information on this unique opportunity to observe various corn lines in hybrid form.

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