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Title: Phenology and biomass production of adapted and non-adapted tropical corn populations in Central Iowa

item INFANTE, PEDRO ALEXANDER - Iowa State University
item MOORE, KJ - Iowa State University
item Scott, Marvin
item ARCHONTOULIS, SOTIRIOS - Iowa State University
item LENSSEN, ANDREW - Iowa State University
item FEI, SHUI-ZHANG - Iowa State University

Submitted to: Agronomy Journal
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 7/30/2017
Publication Date: 11/22/2017
Citation: Infante, P., Moore, K., Scott, M.P., Archontoulis, S., Lenssen, A.W., Fei, S. 2017. Phenology and biomass production of adapted and non-adapted tropical corn populations in Central Iowa. Agronomy Journal. 110(1):171-182.

Interpretive Summary: Corn is grown around the world and varieties are normally adapted to the area where they are developed. When corn that is adapted to tropical growing environments is grown in temperate environments, the plants grow very differently than they do in the tropics. The purpose of this study is to understand these differences in growth and to determine if unadapted corn produced in the U.S. corn belt is well suited to particular uses. We characterized and compared the growth of adapted and unadapted corn and determined that unadapted corn has some characteristics that would make it desirable for biomass production. This work benefits researchers interested in new sources of biomass for production of energy or other purposes. It also provides corn growers with a new strategy to produce crop biomass.

Technical Abstract: Biofuel production in the Midwestern United States has largely focused on corn (Zea mays L.) grain for ethanol production and more recently, corn stover for lignocellulosic ethanol. As an alternative to conventional corn, tropical corn populations have been evaluated. Tropical corn is the term used for corn adapted to tropical regions, but mainly for grain production. Grain yields of tropical corn have fallen short of U.S. Corn Belt populations. Tropical corn is the term used for corn adapted from tropical regions. Growing tropical germplasm in temperate environments is not attractive for grain yield, but tropical corn shows promise for biomass production through taller and more vigorous plants with thick stems and long leaves. The comparison between tropical corn populations and their temperate adapted counterparts with a focus on biomass production has not yet been explored under Iowa growing conditions. This study characterizes the adaptation of the populations by means of studying crop development. Findings from studies like this could lead to developing genotypes with heightened biomass productivity. Therefore, field trails were established in Central Iowa during the 2014 and 2015 growing seasons. Each year adapted and non-adapted versions of three populations (Tuxpeño, Suwan, and Tuson) were planted at three dates to evaluate their phenology and potential for biomass production under Midwestern U.S. conditions. Plant height was found as a metric that correlates well with vegetative development and total biomass. Adapted tropical corn performed better for grain yield and grain development, while non-adapted tropical corn performed better for vegetative development and biomass yield. Non-adapted tropical corn flowered later and had 22% greater total biomass yield on average (24.8 Mg ha-1 for non-adapted versus 20.2 Mg ha-1 for adapted), while adapted populations yielded relatively more grain. These results indicate a high potential for non-adapted tropical corn as a source of biomass production in Central Iowa.