Research partnerships help Michigan corn growers today and in the future

The Corn Marketing Program of Michigan funds Michigan State University research and Extension projects to optimize corn production in Michigan’s unique climate and soils.

Michigan State University’s valuable partnerships with commodity organizations fund research that keeps Michigan’s agriculture industry competitive and productive, now and into the future. The Corn Marketing Program of Michigan invests in the completion of corn-related research and the development of information and educational programs to improve the profitability and sustainability of corn production for Michigan farmers. The research ranges from fundamental to applied projects and demonstrations that advance Michigan’s corn industry through new and improved markets and uses, innovative production practices and improved environmental practices for corn production.

Helping growers today

Research being conducted on weed resistance, cover crops and fertilizer recommendations give corn farmers immediate access to improved information that will help to improve their corn yields and soil quality. This research is often shared with growers during demonstrations and farm tours throughout the state of Michigan, many times targeting the unique soil makeup in various areas of the state and partnering with growers to conduct trials on their own land. Examples of research that helps corn growers today include:

  • Thumb Area Research and Education (TARE) performs hybrid and product performance trials for corn growers in five counties of Michigan’s Thumb area. Projects are conducted on farm cooperator’s land but planted and harvested by TARE staff and shared through Extension events in the area. 
  • Utilizing changed nitrogen application technologies to demonstrate improved nutrient management practices. Looking at late season, pre-tassel nitrogen applications to determine if rates can be reduced and if optimal timing of application improves yield.
  • Pest, disease and weed management. A number of projects targeting specific pests and diseases affecting corn yields are being conducted to help ensure sustained corn production. Current research looks at: Goss’s wilt, a devastating bacterial disease of corn; Rhizocotonia, a common soil fungal disease; and Palmer amaranth, a pigweed relative with devastating impact on corn yields.

Looking toward the future

Research that meets the immediate needs of farmers today, must be accompanied with research that looks toward the future. MSU research works to identify specific corn hybrid genetics that work within Michigan’s unique climates, evaluate remote sensing technology to determine the status of corn growth and determine appropriate management strategies, and create web-based decision support systems to allow farmers to consider multiple planting and management strategies to determine optimal production scenarios.  Future thinking corn-based research conducted at MSU includes:

  • Using UAV, airborne and satellite remote sensing to determine water, nitrogen and phosphorous in corn. This research looks at the use of remote sensing devices to determine nutrient levels in corn and includes sensing methods utilizing different platforms and light wavelengths to determine excess and deficiencies of water, nitrogen and phosphorus. Several other remote sensory imaging and simulation based projects are investigating how technology can help growers implement management strategies to improve yields, increase soil health and conserve water.
  • Identifying corn genetics to match Michigan’s environment and soils. This project collaborates with a national project to support translation of corn genomic information for the benefit of growers, consumers and society. This approach will help people understand the function of specific alleles in corn genes that may be more adaptive to Michigan’s environmental conditions and incorporate those genetics into new varieties.  This project collaborates with the national program to include Michigan environmental conditions.
  •  Internet-based agronomic decision support systems. This project will use computer modeling to evaluate alternate nutrient levels, crop management, tillage systems, rotations, plant populations and planting dates to simulate impacts of current versus alternative production practices.  It simulates the effect of changes over time with known weather conditions to provide information to farmers on the effect of various options to improve corn profitability and sustainability.

Strong research partnerships with commodity-specific organizations aid in much-needed research that assists Michigan’s farmers, helping their bottom line and providing a rich future for Michigan agriculture. 

Additional information on corn research projects is available by searching “corn research” at

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