We (some of us) think of a corn seed as an individual, as its biology is being studied. Further, more close study can consider the individual cells and their function. Or even its important components like the mitochondria. Considerable interest is in the DNA and how it is affecting the corn plant. The biological interests in us concentrate on the individual as we try to understand how the corn plant functions and how to improve it.
This knowledge ultimately must transition into performance of multiple plants in the field. We know that some seed will not germinate or will germinate late poorly when under cold conditions, but how does this affect overall field performance. The late emerging plant probably will have a small, if any, ear and adjacent plants probably will not sufficiently compensate for the yield loss. This may be significant if the season favors high yields, probably because of timely and adequate moisture, but may be insignificant in drought stressed years.
Corn breeders select individual plants based upon characters such as desired appearance and later based on performance in hybrids. From those selections, specific parent and hybrid characteristics need to be considered- a mix of individual plant and field performance is used to finally decide on the commercialization of the hybrid.
Cold germination tests allow observations of injured or dead seed that could not recover from imbibition damage when in cold temperatures. This information can be used to project the affect in the field. The remaining parts of the season will determine the ideal plant density for each field. Hybrids will vary in response to most of the complex environmental pressures of the season. Some will have root systems appropriate for the moisture allowed, some will be better silking than others, if moisture is short. Disease and insect resistance varies among hybrids.
The challenge in agriculture is transitioning from knowledge of biology of individual corn plants to increasing grain production in the field. It is obvious that this requires the effort of a lot of people with a lot of specialties.
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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.