Among the aspects of corn biology that I find fascinating is the application of knowledge of a single plant to growing the crop. Corn is a grain crop and we use it primarily to convert light energy into chemical energy in the form of carbohydrates. We know that photosynthesis in corn increases with light intensity striking the leaf. We also know that corn varieties differ in leaf structure, allowing differing amounts of light to penetrate the canopy. Measurements of leaf area index (LAI) can be made to compare effective photosynthetic leaf areas among hybrids, plant densities, fertilizer applications and and plant maturities. We also can measure the rate of photosynthesis per unit of leaf area among hybrids and fertilizers.
In addition to the the photosynthesis dynamics the effectiveness of pollination, kernel numbers establishment, kernel fill rates, leaf disease resistance, and root growth are among the inherited characters of a hybrid that contribute to its ultimate grain production. A recent study claimed that corn has 100,000 genes. We may know some of these individual genetics but ultimately it is the measurement from yield trials done by seed providers and then experienced by growers that determine the best converter of light to grain, at least for that individual field that year. Unfortunately, the best hybrid or plant density or fertilizer program for 2016 may not be the best for 2017. But we do know that corn is an outstanding converter of light energy into carbohydrates.
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About Corn Journal
The purpose of this blog is to share perspectives of the biology of corn, its seed and diseases in a mix of technical and not so technical terms with all who are interested in this major crop. With more technical references to any of the topics easily available on the web with a search of key words, the blog will rarely cite references but will attempt to be accurate. Comments are welcome but will be screened before publishing. Comments and questions directed to the author by emails are encouraged.