Evaluating performance of drought tolerant corn hybrids and herbicide efficacy under water stress

MSU researcher Erin Burns examined corn hybrid response to reduced soil moisture and weed competition.

Researcher: Erin Burns
Awarded: $36,400
Leveraged: $220,000

Numerous abiotic and biotic factors alter crop cultivar performance and weed competition. The Great Lakes Integrated Sciences and Assessments Program predicts that the average number of consecutive dry days per year (experiencing no precipitation) will increase by 2041-2070 as compared to the 1971-2000 period.

Specifically, more precipitation may fall in heavy rainfall events, leaving more days per year that see little or no precipitation. Nearly all crop production is impacted by drought and specifically corn remains sensitive to reduced precipitation. In regions relying on in-season rainfall, such as many locations in Michigan, significant yield losses can occur during years with water limitations. For example, a severe drought in the U.S. in 2012 contributed to a 21% reduction in corn yield and a 53% price increase compared to the previous five non-drought years.

Objectives of this project were to evaluate corn hybrid response to reduced soil moisture and weed competition, and investigate impacts of drought duration and intensity on corn hybrid and weed competition in a greenhouse setting.

Results demonstrate that reduced precipitation and increasing weed pressure decreases corn yield and impacts species diversity and evenness. Ultimately, integrated weed management will need to adapt to these changes for continued success under future climate scenarios.

Also, water stress and common lambsquarters competition negatively affected the parameters measured in this study. However, the magnitude of reduction is stronger under drought stress than increasing weed competition when water is not limiting. Therefore, field crop growers will need to modify current integrated weed management programs to maintain yield under future climate stress.

These results were used to leverage funding from the Corn Marketing Program of Michigan and USDA NIFA.

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