A Dual Strategy for Ensuring Corn Standability

Farmers have viable options, from hybrids to fungicide treatments, to help keep corn standing tall.
A Dual Strategy for Ensuring Corn Standability
Grower Greg Day has found that his use of Trivapro fungicide on corn results in health benefits and stronger stalk strength on his farm in Lincoln County, Arkansas.
The year 2020 was especially hard on corn. Farmers faced a gantlet of challenges, including insects, weeds, diseases and an unprecedented straight-line windstorm — or derecho — that ravaged Midwestern crops with winds topping 100 mph. It’s no surprise that standability and harvestability in corn suffered during this particularly cruel summer. These problems show no signs of slowing in 2021, but farmers can act proactively to help keep corn standing tall.

Keeping Stalks Green

The right fungicide goes a long way in keeping corn standing tall, especially when applied at tasseling. Gone are the days when a fungicide would only target a pathogen at the expense of the plant’s integrity. Farms around the U.S. are seeing this benefit from Syngenta products, including many growers that depend on Trivapro® fungicide.

“We saw a definite improvement on the overall health of the corn as well as stronger stalk strength,” says Charles Stock, a grower based in Hazen, Arkansas. “We also noticed less dust and debris, reduced filter clogging and cleaner corn in the hopper, with improved yields.”

Growers need to make sure they’re selecting hybrids with root characteristics that match exactly where they’re being placed.

Andy Heggenstaller
Head of Agronomy
Syngenta Seeds
Greg Day experienced extreme weather events on his farm in Lincoln County, Arkansas, yet saw similarly positive results.

“The corn that we treated with Trivapro stood through three hurricanes,” he says. “We also noticed significantly less lodging than the untreated corn when it came time to harvest. We will definitely be using it again.”

Standability in the face of extreme weather is far from a guarantee, especially in the case of the 2020 derecho, but a solid fungicide that contributes to the holistic health of corn is an essential tool in preventing lodging.

“Our fungicides are designed to benefit plant health in corn,” says Tyler Harp, a technical product lead for fungicides at Syngenta. “All fungicides improve stalk health via pathogen reduction, but that can cost the plant energy. A holistically beneficial fungicide can maintain plant health through abiotic stress management, water-use efficiency and preserving photosynthetic capacity — standability is a positive outcome of all of these benefits.” 

Taking a Hybrid Approach

Before a fungicide can factor into plant health, growers must choose the right seed to help ensure standability and harvestability from the start. Most seed companies, including Syngenta, have ratings systems that are compiled on various soils, population levels and other factors that influence plant standability.

Andy Heggenstaller, head of agronomy at Syngenta Seeds, works directly with research and development teams to make sure corn hybrids check all the necessary boxes to ensure standability. “Hybrids vary in the size and architecture of their root systems,” he says. “Growers need to make sure they’re selecting hybrids with root characteristics that match exactly where they’re being placed — for example, hybrids with more fibrous roots are best planted in coarse-textured soils, while hybrids with deep roots are best positioned on fine-textured clay soils. In either case, selecting a hybrid with the optimal root type for the soil type in question will improve standability.”

Another factor when choosing a hybrid is its tendency for green snap, which was a common occurrence during the 2020 derecho. “Green snap tends to occur during the rapid phases of vegetative growth prior to flowering,” Heggenstaller says. “Typically, hybrids are most susceptible to heavy winds and can snap right at the ear node in late June and early July just before the silk emerges. Planting hybrids with varying maturities and at different times can help mitigate the risk. Getting the right mix of hybrids flowering at the right time for the season isn’t an exact science, but it helps.”

Sowing Seeds (and Spreading Risk)

But even if the “perfect” seed is found, growers can fall into complacency, according to Mark Licht, Ph.D., an extension cropping systems specialist at Iowa State University. Overdependence on one specific hybrid can increase the chances of encountering issues with standability and harvestability. In other words, growers should spread out their risk.

“If you’re planting a number of different hybrids, you’re going to reduce the risk,” Licht says. “It takes a bit of finesse since we’re dealing with a complex biological system with a lot of different interactions but planting different seeds with a range of maturities helps growers make sure not all plants are susceptible when weather events strike.”

Fungicide applications and the right combination of hybrids can do a lot to help growers maintain standability and harvestability in their corn crops, but they can’t do everything.

“Growers need to remember that there’s no magic wand,” says F. Leon Hunter, agronomy service manager at Syngenta. “Fungicide applications should be considered early in the planning process when growers are making their hybrid selections, matching each one with its optimal soil type based on root mass and structure.”

According to the experts at Syngenta and farmers, the experts in the field, a dual plan of action is the surest way to keep corn standing tall in 2021.

From hybrids to #fungicide treatments, farmers have viable options at their disposal to keep #corn standing tall.

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