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• Over the past five years corn yields in Virginia have averaged 102 bushels per acre. In North Carolina the five-year average stands at 106 bushels per acre.
• Clearly these numbers fall significantly short of the national corn yield trend.
• Soybean growers in the Southeast can grow yields comparable to growers in the Midwest, if there is adequate rainfall throughout the growing season.
VIRGINIA TECH Small Grains Specialist Wade Thomason, right, and Wheat Breeder Carl Griffey discuss crop yields at a recent field day.
Damaged by drought
In tests by North Carolina State Corn Specialist Ron Heiniger, Stoller says corn plots planted in 2011 were severely damaged by drought.
“On some treatments the average corn yield was 36 bushels per acre. Where Heiniger applied a product called More Power (produced by Stoller Enterprises, Inc.) the yield on this field was 118 bushels per acre.
Stoller says, “In explanation, corn plants need soil moisture in order to evaporate moisture from the plant leaves. This serves as an air conditioning system in a plant to keep plant tissue cool so that the plants can continue to carry on photosynthesis.
“When plant tissue becomes too hot, the process of photosynthesis decreases and eventually is eliminated. The hot temperatures do not allow the sugars to move out of the plant cells into other parts of the plant. The plant cells then starve from the lack of energy. Photosynthesis stops and the plant cells die.”
On the other hand, he says, “If photosynthesis of the plant can be maintained under hot temperatures, the plant cells will receive enough sugars to carry on normal respiration. During the process of respiration, plant cells make their own water as a by-product from fermentation of sugar. This is enough water so plant cells can function normally,” Stoller explains.
Steve Speros, who markets Quick-Sol in North Carolina, says his product produces a similar response in corn. And, Michael Cohen, who is sales and marketing director for Actosol, says his product improves stress tolerance, water retention, enhances chelating of plant nutrients, improves phosphorous uptake, and stimulates root mass and plant growth.
Though these materials, and others like them, all work in different ways, growers report significant corn yield increases in drought years using a number of such products. Whether these new products stand up to rigorous testing at Land-Grant universities, over a period of years, remains to be seen.
Whether it be from using irrigation moisture or water- enhancing materials, the key to producing more uniform corn yields in the Southeast seems to be getting moisture to the plant at the key time in the growth process.
Other spring-planted grain crops grown in the Southeast are subject to the same weather patterns, but don’t appear to be so negatively affected by weather. In fact, soybeans and wheat have shown a steady climb in yield trend over the past 10 years.