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Historical increase in corn yield -- it's in the roots
Date:3/16/2009

Their approach involved the use of virtual plant computer simulation technologies. They modified an advanced crop model to take account of known effects on crop growth associated with varying leaf erectness and/or root system architecture. They then simulated consequences on yield for representative sites in the U.S. Corn Belt for a set of "hypothetical hybrids" varying in leaf and root characteristics.

The study revealed that the historical corn yield trend and its association with higher plant density was more likely related to change in root system architecture than to change in leaf erectness. While more erect leaf types could contribute to the effect in some high-yielding situations, changes in root systems to enhance capture of soil water at depth had the dominating effect. Results for simulations conducted for hypothetical hybrids that varied in root system characteristics were found to be consistent with a set of field experiments that reported yield response to density for hybrids released over the past 20 years.

"The use of dynamic crop models helped us to look beyond the clearly visible differences among hybrids in this time series of yield advance," says Hammer. "It enabled us to focus on the driving processes of crop growth that must be responsible for these effects. It is clear that as we move forward we need to look much harder at root systems and how they capture water."

In the study, the extra amount of water required for the 6t/ha historical yield increase was estimated as about 270mm. Further research is required to determine whether this has now positioned the corn crop near the limit of water resource availability or whether there remains opportunity for yield advance by further improvement in water capture.


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Contact: Sara Uttech
suttech@crops.org
608-268-4948
Crop Science Society of America
Source:Eurekalert

Page: 1 2

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