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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Title: Midseason Stalk Breakage in Corn As Affected by Crop Rotation, Hybrid, and Nitrogen Fertilizer Rate

Authors
item Wilhelm, Wallace
item Liebig, Mark
item Varvel, Gary
item Blackmer, Tracy - FORMER GRAD STU/LINC NE

Submitted to: Agronomy Journal
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: August 5, 1998
Publication Date: November 1, 1999
Citation: Wilhelm, W.W., Liebig, M.A., Varvel, G.E., Blackmer, T.M. 1999. Midseason stalk breakage in corn as affected by crop rotation, hybrid, and nitrogen fertilizer rate. Agronomy Journal 91:161-165.

Interpretive Summary: Brittle-snap of corn (stalks break near the primary ear node in the basal portion of on elongating internode) was the greatest loss caused by several storms in 1993 and 1994 in Central Nebraska. Several experiments established to determine the impact of management practices on nitrate leaching to ground water from irrigated cropland were in the path of these storms. After the storms, number of broken plants was determined in these experiments to evaluate how management practices influenced severity of the damage. In 1993, crop rotation, hybrid, planting date, and N fertilization, and their interactions, all affected the amount of brittle-snap. Treatments that caused plants to grow more rapidly (optimum-to-excess N rates, corn rotated with soybean, and early planting) increased the severity of damage. In continuous corn, 7% of the plants broke compared to 33% for rotated corn; across hybrids, damage ranged from 4 to 33%; and percent broken plants increased quadratically from 8% for the no N treatment to 24% at N rates equal to or greater than 80 lb/ac. Only the hybrid treatment factor was significant in 1994. Amount of brittle-snap was related to stage of development. The great difference in severity of damage exhibited by hybrids indicates that currently the best management strategy to limit brittle-snap losses is to plant resistant hybrids. Alternative management strategies, such as late planting, sub-optimal N rates, and continuous cropping of corn, all are known to limit yield regardless of windstorms.

Technical Abstract: In July 1993 and 1994, southern Nebraska experienced devastating windstorms with winds estimated to exceed 45 m s-1. These storms resulted in severe brittle-snap (stalks break near the primary ear node in the basal portion of an elongating internode) of corn (Zea mays L.). Several experiments established on a Hord silt loam (fine-silty, mixed, mesic, Pachic Haplustoll) to determine the impact of selected management practices (crop rotation, hybrid selection, planting date, and N fertilization) on nitrate leaching to ground water from irrigated cropland as part of the Nebraska Management Systems Evaluation Area (MSEA) project were in the path of these storms. After the storms, number of broken plants was determined in these experiments to evaluate how management practices influenced severity of the damage. In 1993, crop rotation, hybrid, planting date, and N fertilization, and their interactions, all affected the amount of brittle-snap. Treatments that resulted in more rapid growth (optimum-to-excess N rates, corn rotated with soybean, and early planting) increased the severity of damage. In continuous corn, 7% of the plants broke compared with 33% for rotated corn; damage ranged from 4 to 33% among hybrids; and percent broken plants increased quadratically from 8% for the 0 kg N ha-1 treatment to 24% at N rates equal to or greater than 80 kg N ha-1. Only the hybrid factor was significant in 1994. Amount of brittle-snap was related to stage of development (r = 0.55, n = 160, p < 0.001). The great difference in severity of damage among hybrids indicates that the current best management strategy to limit brittle-snap losses is to plant hybrids less prone to breakage.

Last Modified: 11/25/2014
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