Researcher studies corn roots

A researcher says there is a lot to learn about the roots of corn plants.

Jim Schwartz with Beck’s Hybrids tells Brownfield some varieties have deep penetrating roots, while others spread out in a wider pattern, and that affects the nutrient uptake of the corn plant. “So, if you think about it, many nutrients are absorbed from a very small distance away from the roots. That’s a process called diffusion. Nitrates, borates, sulfates, the come from a further distance that that’s called mass flow.”

Schwartz says learning more about how roots function will help farmers make better management decisions. “The root architecture is probably going to be instructive to us for three things, nutrient placement, population management, and then also probably stress tolerance, right, so maybe, we think a vertical root is more prone to be resilient to stress than a horizontal root system.”

Schwartz says in one hybrid test, the yield was eight bushels below expectations in Minnesota, seventeen bushels below target with broadcast fertilizer, but four bushels above when fertility was applied closer to the roots. “What we’re learning is if we can do a better job of matching up what a farmer does as it relates to fertility placement, populations, and/or stress tolerance to the best root architecture and volume, we might be able to avoid some of those problems in the future.”

Schwartz says they’re expanding the research with the University of Illinois to look further into the differences between banding and broadcasting nutrients on the same hybrid, plus nitrogen placement and timing studies on various corn root structures.

Schwartz spoke to Brownfield during Wisconsin’s Corn-Soy-Pork Expo.

Audio: Jim Schwartz discusses corn root research with Brownfield’s Larry Lee

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