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Corn hybrid research is crucial to farmers
By Chantel Lott
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- Knowing that corn will grow in Mississippi is one matter, but deciding which kind will grow best on a particular farm puts significant amounts of money on the line and calls for in-depth research.
"Mississippi farmers each year look for new and improved hybrids of corn to plant in hopes of increasing corn quality and increasing corn yields at harvest. Each farm has different soil types and fertility. A combination of these factors plus weather conditions, diseases, pests and weeds result in variable yield performance," said Erick Larson, corn specialist with Mississippi State University's Extension Service.
MSU conducts trials each year to determine what corn varieties perform best under varying Mississippi crop conditions. There are three regions and seven corn trial experiment sites in the state. Two testing regions -- north and south -- are separated by Interstate 20. A third region is located in the west side of the state in the Mississippi River Delta.
Two testing sites are in the Delta and five are spread through northern and southern regions of Mississippi. Sites are classified as dryland, which only receives water from rains, or as irrigated, which receives supplemental water for the corn.
"Distinct locations of the state are chosen to expose the different varieties of corn to varied rainfall and temperature conditions. Disease, insect and other growth-inhibiting factors also differ across the state," Larson said.
Nearly 60 different hybrids of corn are tried throughout the state each year.
In these corn trials, researchers monitor characteristics of plants. These characteristics include height, yield, number of broken stalks, plant density per acre and grain moisture content at harvest.
Mississippi corn is used primarily for grain or silage. The commercial market sells the grain. Silage is made by chopping down the entire plant, cutting it into pieces and then placing it in a closed structure to ferment. Afterwards, the product feeds beef or dairy cattle.
"Mississippi harvests about 40 million bushels of corn and most of those bushels are used for grain. The production of grain generates nearly $72 million a year to the state's economy when it sells at just under $2 per bushel," Larson said.
For more information about choosing a corn hybrid for a farm or to enroll in a corn short-course, contact your local county Extension agent or visit the web at http://ext.msstate.edu/anr/plantsoil/grains/ to view the variety trial information.