Home / Crops / Corn / Corn Production / No-till helps bigger corn plants 'bully' others

No-till helps bigger corn plants 'bully' others

Agriculture.com Staff 01/26/2010 @ 7:49am

The crop residue common in no-till corn fields helps turn bigger corn plants into bullies, new research shows.

Purdue University agronomist Tony Vyn says it's been known for a long time that young corn plants are, on average, shorter in no-till, corn-on-corn fields, but that doesn't mean there is an overall stunting of growth among all plants. Instead, residue left over from last year's corn crop is changing soil conditions and creating a disadvantage for some plants fighting for sunlight, water and nutrients.

"There is a hierarchy that is formed, even though the plants are genetically the same and should be equal in size and stature," Vyn says. "No-till corn yield reductions have little to do with an overall height reduction early in the season. They have more to do with height variability during vegetative growth."

Vyn says yield losses of up to 14% can be attributed to this competition in no-till fields where corn is planted the year after corn. In those fields, the leftover corn residue creates patches of soil with lower temperatures and different water and nutrient content. Seeds planted there are at a disadvantage.

"These conditions created by the field residue can affect root development," he says. "Plants that have better access to resources grow faster and then dominate their smaller neighbors."

Vyn studied plant height data over 14 years and found that there were pronounced height differences among plants by four weeks. It had been thought that a no-till field situation with high residue cover and no soil loosening uniformly reduced the height of all plants because of overall cooler soil temperatures, but Vyn says significant height differences were observed from plant to plant.

The negative consequences of this plant competition are exacerbated as planting density increases.

"For example, competition for nitrogen increases as crowding increases," Vyn says. "The higher the density, the greater the intensity of the competition for all resources."

Weather conditions, such as a lack of rainfall during a critical development period, also can affect the final yield from plants fighting for limited resources.

While some plants dominate and grow to their full potential, the smaller, dominated plants decrease the field's overall yield.

Vyn says growers should ensure during the previous year's harvest that residue cover will be uniform, that fields are drained adequately, that surface soil compaction is avoided and that nutrients are evenly distributed. No-till fields are desirable because they decrease the amount of nutrients running off into nearby water, but Vyn says newer tillage options, such as vertical tillage, are less disruptive than the traditional intensive tillage and could ensure more uniform conditions for seeds.

The crop residue common in no-till corn fields helps turn bigger corn plants into bullies, new research shows.

CancelPost Comment
MORE FROM AGRICULTURE.COM STAFF more +

Farm and ranch risk management resources By: 07/07/2010 @ 9:10am Government resources USDA Risk Management Agency Download free insurance program and…

Major types of crop insurance policies By: 07/07/2010 @ 9:10am Crop insurance for major field crops comes in two types: yield-based coverage that pays an…

Marketing 101 - Are options the right tool… By: 07/07/2010 @ 9:10am "If you are looking for a low risk way to protect yourself against prices moving either higher or…

MEDIA CENTERmore +
This container should display a .swf file. If not, you may need to upgrade your Flash player.
Holiday Profit Taking Pressures Markets