Corn Research

Corn Marketing Program of Michigan Funds MSU Projects

The goals of the Corn Marketing Program of Michigan include research and educational projects that advance Michigan’s corn industry through new and improved markets and uses, through innovative production practices and improve the environmental footprint of corn production. Partnerships with research and extension at Michigan State University is a major avenue to achieve these goals.

Corn genetics

Michigan genomes to fields:  A collaboration with the NCGA Genomes2Fields GxE Project

Researcher: Dr. Kurt Thelen, MSU, 2016

Details: The Genomes To Field GxE Study is an umbrella initiative to support translation of corn genomic information for the benefit of growers, consumers and society. This approach will help in the understanding  of specific genes in corn hybrids that may be more adaptive to Michigan’s climate and soils. This project collaborates with the national program to include Michigan environmental conditions.

Nutrient related projects

What can UAV, airborne and satellite remote sensing tell us about water, nitrogen and phosphorus in corn?  

Researcher: Dr. Bruno Basso, MSU, 2015

Details: This project is looking at the use of remote sensing devices to determine nutrient levels in corn. This includes sensing methods utilizing different platforms and light wavelengths to determine excess and deficiencies of water, nitrogen and phosphorus.  The goal is to prove the effectiveness of these devices in helping implement better nutrient management.

i-SALUS:  a web-based agronomic decision support system to help farmers optimize water and nutrients, increase resource use efficiency and reduce environmental impacts.  

Researcher: Dr. Bruno Basso, MSU, 2015

Details: This project is using SALUS (System Approach to Land Use Sustainability), which is designed to model continuous crop, soil, water and nutrient conditions under different management strategies for multiple years. This tool will allow farmers to enter alternate nutrient levels, crop management, tillage systems, rotations, plant populations and planting dates to simulate changes in their current production practices. It then simulates the effect of changes over time with known weather conditions to provide information to farmers on the outcomes of scenarios evaluating the impact of  of various management changes.

Beyond Crop Scouting:  integrating remote sensing imagery with crop modeling to improve nitrogen management

Researcher: Dr. Bruno Basso, MSU, 2016

Details: This proposal integrates remote sensing images with crop models that are run with historical and seasonal forecasts to allow for a better understanding of the factors affecting yield variability along with identification of alternative management strategies and improved predictions of crop yield during the growing season.

Coordination meetings to revise the Tri-state fertilizer recommendations 

Researchers: Dr. Brad Joern, Purdue, with Dr. Steve Culman, OSU and Dr. Kurt Steinke, MSU.  2016

Details: This grant is to bring MSU, OSU and Purdue University together to review the Tri-State fertilizer recommendations. These have not been updated in several years and need review in light of changes in variety development, production management and environmental quality.  

Re-examining P & K recommendations across critical Michigan watersheds

An agronomic grant to do in-field trials to validate, or change, Tri-state recommendations, in cooperation with Ohio State University and targeting the Western Lake Erie and Saginaw Bay watersheds.

Researcher: Dr. Kurt Steinke, MSU 2016.  

Integrating 4R nutrient management and soil health to optimize Michigan corn production

Researcher: Dr. Kurt Steinke, MSU, 2014-2016

Details: This project identified and adapted corn nitrogen strategies that look specifically at placement, timing and source of nitrogen to improve corn yields and reduce N rates of application. Additionally, the objective is to determine the effects of cover crops both individually and in combination with the 4R nutrient stewardship practices on soil microbial populations, corn yield and soil health.  \The study used two sites (East Lansing and Richville, MI) to analyze the effects of these processes across different soils and climates.

Extension demonstrations

Utilizing farmers’ changed nitrogen application technologies to demonstrate improved nutrient management practices. i.e. late season/pre-tassel nitrogen applications

Researcher: Marilyn Thelen, Clinton County, MSUE, 2014-2016.  

This project is taking a look at different timings of nitrogen application to corn. The intent is to provide feedback on rates and timing in nitrogen application.This is specifically looking at late season, pre-tassel applications to provide for reduced rates of N use and better timing of application for yield improvement.

Starting in 2014 with funding from CMPM, research analyzed the different timings of nitrogen application to corn, looking at the timing impacts of nitrogen use on efficiency and yield. This project pin points late season, pre-tassel applications to provide for nitrogen use by the crop throughout the growing season to improve yield and reduce the risk of losing nitrogen from the system. The main research goal has been to compare nitrogen application methods at various mid-Michigan locations through field size trials that contrast the farmer’s former application practices with the farmer’s newly identified nitrogen management practices. In total, seven field research trials have been conducted over 2 years. This new management practice of nutrient application late in the growing season (pre-tassel) can be effective, but heavy rain can prevent the late application and early frost may decrease the crop’s ability to utilize the nutrients. Both weather situations also have the ability to decrease yield. Field research over multiple years provides Michigan farmers with information on how effectively some of the new, farmer driven management practices balance nutrients, optimize yield and protect the environment.

Attaining 300 bushel yields on high productive soils through climate tolerant hybrids, increased population density and nitrogen management

Researcher: George Silva, Eaton County MSUE 2014-2016.

Details: This is a project that targets specific high corn yield management strategies.  It seeks to maximize yields through climate tolerant hybrids, increased populations densities at planting, and improved nitrogen management through better rate control and improved timing of application.

In a private and publicly funded collaboration between MSU Extension, the Michigan Corn Marketing Program and Monsanto Dekalb seed, research is being conducted on the attainment of 300 bushel per acre yields of climate tolerant corn hybrids. Both field research and computer models have shown that the most practical short-term approach towards reaching the 300 bu/A yield goal with modern hybrids is to increase the planting density so more ears and kernels are harvested per acre. At high population densities, corn will quickly establish a full canopy and intercept more sunlight for photosynthesis. Some of the newly released hybrids have strong stalks, robust root systems and erect stature, enabling them to adapt well to high populations.

Another factor in play is the hybrid ear type of ‘flexed’ versus ‘fixed‘. Flexed ear types are more ‘opportunistic’, being able to adjust their late season yield components, while fixed ear hybrids have a determinate ear type that limits it capacity to change during the season. Therefore planting the ‘right’ population is more critical to fixed ear types compared to flexed ear types.

Based on climate and rainfall patterns we have observed in the past few years, corn farmers will benefit by having rescue nitrogen application options when necessary, and be able to stretch the sidedress nitrogen application window based on current season weather, soil type, nitrogen source and fertilizer application equipment availability.

Thumb Ag Research and Education (TARE)

Researcher: Bob Battel, MSUE Huron County                                  

Details: TARE performs hybrid and product performance trials for corn growers in five counties of Michigan’s Thumb area.  Projects are conducted on farm cooperator’s land but planted and harvested by TARE staff and shared through Extension events in the area.

Thumb Ag Research and Education (TARE) is a project conducted by MSU Extension field crops educators in five counties in the Michigan’s Thumb area. Corn hybrids are evaluated in three maturity groups at six sites, located on farm cooperator’s land. Each hybrid is replicated four times at each site.

While the trials are conducted on the cooperating farmer’s land, farmer involvement is limited, so that the cooperator can keep planting their own crop during the busy spring season. The plots are planted and harvested by TARE staff using owned equipment. The cooperating farmers are asked to provide primary tillage and nitrogen ahead of planting, weed and pest control in-season, and trucks to haul the grain away in the fall.

Water Research

Understanding nutrient impacts and sources at the watershed scale to enhance environmental stewardship

Researcher: Dr. Joan Rose, MSU (2015-2016)

Details: This research will identify the impacts of agricultural management practices on nutrient and microbial water quality and provide guidance to focus efforts for water quality improvement across the state. Using new technology to assess water quality with regard to phosphorous, nitrogen and bacteria source tracking, samples from 64 watersheds and three flow regimes, the data is being analyzed together with DNA samples that can distinguish human and animal populations sources relative to agricultural land use and characteristics.

Mapping aquifer yield and drawdown from the enhanced wellogic dataset

Researcher: Dr. Dave Lusch and Steve Miller, MSU (2015)

Details: This project has processed the newly available, Enhanced Wellogic data set in order to compile updated yield and drawdown maps of the glacial and bedrock aquifer systems of Michigan.  This data set contains about 50% more usable glacial aquifer data statewide than the previous model.  This has potential to improve the estimated groundwater availability from local areas in the state.

Conservation related research

Using Cover crops with wheat to improve rotational profitability (funded by corn, soys, wheat)

Researcher: Dr. Dean Baas, 2014-2016

Details: The hypothesis seeks to measure the enhanced corn and soybean yield response from a rotation that incorporates wheat and cover crops.  Moving into the third year the project has followed changes in diseases, weeds, input costs and yields over two locations in the state, East Lansing and Richville.

Historically, crop rotations have been much more diverse than they are presently. The lack of sophisticated crop rotations has resulted in crop yield reductions, increased pest problems and poor soil quality. This three year research project evaluates the productivity and soil quality of planting corn only, soybean only, corn/soybean and corn/soybean/wheat with and without cover crops. Since 2014, the plot locations in East Lansing and Richville have been evaluated for their economic and agronomic performance of rotations with cover crops only, wheat only and wheat with three different cover crops over three years. This project is funded equally through the Corn Marketing Program of Michigan, Michigan Soybean Checkoff and Michigan Wheat Program. The hypothesis for this research is that incorporating wheat and cover crops into the corn and soybean rotation will enhance yields; decrease incidence of weeds, diseases and pests; and increase profits for corn, soybean and wheat growers in Michigan, while improving soil health. Moving into the third year, the project has followed changes in diseases, weeds, input costs and yields over two locations in the state at the MSU Agronomy Farm and the MSU Saginaw Valley Research and Extension Center.

How competitive are interseeded cover crops in corn? Looking at seeding in early season and pre-harvest.

Researcher: Dr. Karen Renner, 2016

Details: The timing of cover crop seeding is looking at inter-seeding at the V1-V5 growth stage of corn and at pre-tassel.   Moving to this early seeding also necessitates looking at the herbicide program, nutrient cycling and general success rate of the cover crop survival and ability to return biomass to the soil.  

Michigan Corn Stover Project.   

Researcher: Dennis Pennington, Kurt Thelen & Eric Anderson, MSUE, 2014-2016.

Details: Implications of removing corn stover on corn yield and soil quality are the target of this project.  As a precursor to potential future lingo-cellulosic ethanol biorefineries the project is focusing on utilizing the stover for livestock feed in the short term. The project looks at corn stover harvest logistics, transportation and storage on through agronomic and environmental impacts of such a practice.

The Michigan Corn Stover Project began in 2014 with two years of funding provided by the Corn Marketing Program of Michigan (CMPM) and Project GREEEN. As a precursor to potential lingo-cellulosic ethanol biorefineries in the future, the project is focusing on utilizing the stover for livestock feed in the short term.  The research objectives related to the CMPM were to quantify the impact of stover harvest on future corn grain yields through multiyear on-farm research trials, to determine the feed value of corn stover and to quantify cattle performance at various inclusion rates in a feeding trial, and connect corn producers with market outlets for stover. The research objectives funded by Project GREEN include measuring the effect of basic storage systems (covered vs. uncovered) on stover nutritional value and recovery of harvested nutrients, investigating the agronomic soundness of a corn stover harvest system including interedseeded winter annual cereal cover crops through small plot studies, and develop outreach resources and best management practices for corn stover harvest in Michigan. Research is still underway so the data thus farm is preliminary and no conclusions can be drawn yet.

Integrated Pest Management

Goss’s wilt: An emerging problem for Michigan corn producers

Researcher: Dr. Martin Chilvers, MSU, 2015

Details: Goss’s wilt is a devastating bacterial disease of corn, discovered in Nebraska but has been confirmed in 4 counties of Michigan.  The is a proactive research and educational effort to reduce the impact of Goss’s wilt and develop and deliver management strategies to commercial and seed corn growers.

Goss’s wilt is a devastating bacterial disease of corn, first discovered in Nebraska and has been confirmed in 4 Michigan counties in 2014.  Starting in 2014, research on the disease began when samples were collected from 14 confirmed Michigan fields, along with 2 confirmed fields in Indiana. Positive Gross’s wilt leaf samples from three counties in both Indiana and Missouri were sent to the lab where putative isolates of the causal agent, Clavibacter michiganensis subsp. nebraskensis (Cmn), were obtained. These were screened along with previously identified Cmn isolates, by inoculating Goss’s wilt susceptible hybrids with Cmn and rating disease symptoms by inoculating 4 o’clock leaves with Cmn and observing whether or not a hyper sensitive response occurred, and by performing molecular tests on all isolates with a method that could identify them at the species level.  From these tests, no isolates of Cmn were obtained from the Michigan samples, but positive Cm isolates that also caused Goss’s wilt in corn, were obtained from the Indiana and Missouri leaf samples sent to the lab.  Two isolates from the Indiana leaves were identified as Cmn and 6 isolates from Missouri leaf samples were identified as Cmn. Understanding biofilm formation is significant as Cmn survives epiphytically on its host before it infects through wounds and possibly natural openings, such as stomata. Additionally, biofilm formation of the bacterium within the water conducting tissues of corn may be linked to its ability to infect and kill its host.  Knowledge of how long populations of Cmn survive on corn leaves and of how high these populations may build over time, may be important for determining length of survival, and possibly explain the observed differences in virulence between  isolates. It may also assist in screening corn hybrids for resistance by incorporating appropriate Cmn strains into germplasm screening trials. Scouting fields for Goss’s wilt will be ongoing throughout Michigan and Indiana.

Characterization of Rhizoctonia seedling and root rot diseases of corn and rotation implications

Researcher: Dr. Martin Chilvers, MSU, 2016

Details: Rhizocotonia is a common soil fungal disease that has been studied widely in other crops but has implications in corn rotations as planting occurs early season in cold soils and or slow emergent situations.   Knowing which species are primarily responsible for disease will allow targeted screening of germplasm for resistance, the development, and testing of biological and chemical seed treatments, and examination of management practices that assist with avoidance of disease.

Rhizocotonia is a common soil fungal disease that has been studied widely in other crops but has implications in corn rotations as planting occurs early season in cold soils and or slow emergent situations. In this project researchers have expanded on the characterization of the 179 Rhizoctonia solani isolates collected for their pathogenicity and virulence on corn. The strains will be determined using both a seed rot assay and a seedling root rot assay to provide critical information on the virulence and preferred growth stage of the host. Knowing which species are primarily responsible for disease will allow targeted screening of germplasm for resistance, the development, and testing of biological and chemical seed treatments, and examination of management practices that assist with avoidance of disease.  This project is important because it will help to understand the disease and pathogen population in Michigan as well as determining how rotations affect R. solani inoculum.

Developing management strategies for glyphosate/ALS-resistant Palmer amaranth in Michigan corn Production Systems

Researcher: Dr. Christy Sprague, MSU, 2013-2015

Details: Palmer amaranth is a pigweed relative that demands concern for prevention, early detection and management strategies as its impact is devastating on corn yields.  Dr. Sprague has found that it also contains not one, but several pathways of resistance to herbicides.  This three-year project has garnered recommendations for preemergence and postemergence herbicide programs and they are published in the MSU Weed Control Guide.

Over the past three years Dr. Christy Sprague of Michigan State University Extension has conducted integrated pest management (IPM) research on management strategies for herbicide-resistant Palmer amaranth. Palmer amaranth is a pigweed species that demands concern for prevention, early detection and management as its impact is devastating on corn yields.  The Palmer amaranth population in Michigan that Sprague’s group researched had developed resistance to three different herbicide site of action groups including glyphosate, atrazine, and ALS-inhibiting herbicides. This research project has garnered recommendations for preemergence and postemergence herbicide programs for management of this devastating weed and are published in the MSU Weed Control Guide.

Market Development

Strategic Business and Marketing Plan, targeting the Port of Muskegon. Muskegon County, 2016

The Port of Muskegon is rated the #1 economic development project on the western side of the state.  Through strategic assessment of corn production, processing and shipping methods, the County will build a business and marketing plan that will investigate synergistic avenues for both improving the local economy and the general economy of corn in our state.

Compiled Feb. 2016, with special contributors Natalie Rector and Rosalyn Brummette.

Related Events

Related Articles

Related Resources