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Predicting Corn Quality With Weather

Predict protein and oil concentrations in corn simply by looking at weather patterns. University of Illinois researchers developed an algorithm to make end-of-season yield and quality predictions weeks or months ahead of harvest. They analyzed seven years of weather data during three important stages in corn development – emergence, silking and grain fill.

Juliann Seebauer is a principal crop sciences research specialist and co-author of the study. She says they’ve been able to hone in on weather conditions that influence protein and oil content.

"To get more protein, you would want it a little drier in the spring and hot and dry at flowering, we would also have it relatively hot during that grain fill season. We’d have to have enough water available at grain fill to be able to take up nitrogen and put more protein into that grain," says Seebauer.

They found the opposite weather conditions will produce higher oil concentration in the corn.

"We would need a little bit more water and lower temperatures during the flowering and grain fill," she says. "The plant is having so much photosynthesis, it can only put so much starch in the grain so that it also makes oil and packs that in. Then, having enough water available to make that photosynthesis and all the carbohydrates is ideal."

The overall goal is to make early predictions on how the corn will be used without the need for specialized testing equipment.