A solitary corn plant with tufts protruding at the base of the stem on both sides. In this study, tillers were found to either increase or maintain corn yield in the environments evaluated, suggesting that corn tillers may be useful in fields with low stocking densities. Author: Ignacio Masigoge

Without a doubt, corn is one of the most important crops in the world. From human and livestock feed to many industrial uses, humans have been cultivating it for approximately 10,000 years.

traditionally, corn was grown in the most fertile regions of the world. These regions have healthy soils, ample rainfall, and more. Think of places like the American Midwest where you might find a college mascot associated with corn. In recent years, maize production has increased in less productive areas around the world with the development of new maize hybrids and improved agricultural machinery.

A common practice of farming in less productive regions is to increase the space between corn plants in a row. The space between plants is called plant density. With reduced plant density, there is less competition between corn for water, nutrients, and other essential resources. However, greater access to nutrients can cause corn to grow an additional component: the tillers.

Did you know that corn is technically a member of the grass family? Like other grasses, corn can grow tillers, a branching structure that naturally occurs at the base of the corn plant. Plants need nutrients to grow. As a result, they can be seen as a nuisance, stealing nutrients from the most important part of the plant: the main ear. Understanding how rumples affect corn yield in less productive regions is crucial.

Ignacio Macigoge, a researcher at the National University of Mar del Plata, and his team are studying corn and nuts in the pampas of Argentina. “Research that can help stabilize and maximize corn yields will have a significant impact under these limiting conditions,” Masigoge says. His team’s research was recently published in Plant breeding.

“This study aimed to evaluate the role of tillers on maize planted at a lower density,” says Masigoge. How does the presence of aggregates affect maize yield under different Pampas conditions? What are the interrelationships between crop, environment and corn yield? The team worked on all these questions.

The researchers set up 11 field experiments over two years in the southern Argentine Pampa. The researchers collected data on corn with and without cultivars at 11 locations with varying sunlight, rainfall, and temperature. For corn studied without tillers, the researchers had to remove the tillers by hand.

Data such as plant density, number of ears per plant, tillers per plant and maize yield were collected and evaluated. Collecting this data led to some interesting results: across a wide range of environments, tillers either maintained or increased corn yields compared to no-tillers.

“The advantages of tilled corn over no-tilled corn were evident in a wide variety of environments. Remarkably, the cultivars did not negatively impact overall maize yield even in the most restrictive environments,” says Masigoge. “Farmers and producers in limiting conditions can use these findings to understand the impact of tillers on corn planted at lower densities.”

A lower planting density is useful in restrictive conditions such as the Pampas region. Abbreviation plant density reduces water use and increases availability of water, so one of the main challenges for maize in these conditions is to maximize the use of resources. This study proved that aggregates can help maize to make the most of its resources and adapt to its environment when environmental conditions are better than expected.

This research is important to Masigoge and his team. “Historically, most corn crop research has focused on high-yielding environments. Recommendations for less productive regions are less advanced, so applied research that can help stabilize and/or maximize corn yields will have a significant impact on production.”

According to Masigoge, research on maize tillering is lacking, possibly because the traditional high plant density common in fruit-bearing environments prevents maize from developing tillering. “This new knowledge can help develop decision support tools for farmers in more constrained environments.”

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Additional information:
Ignacio Masigoge et al., Contribution of tillers to maize yield stability at low plant density, Plant breeding (2022). DOI: 10.1002/csc2.20827

Citation: Corn tillers with cultivars do well in restrictive environments (2022, October 12) Retrieved October 12, 2022, from https://phys.org/news/2022-10-corn-tillers-restrictive-environments.html

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