Colorado Corn Administrative Committee tours research projects, learns about potential crop concerns | TheFencePost.com

Colorado Corn Administrative Committee tours research projects, learns about potential crop concerns

To the east of U.S. 25 in Fort Collins, Colo., fields of corn, barley, industrial hemp and others grow throughout the year. With a privately owned farm in the mix, the land is used for Colorado State University research.

Members of the Colorado Corn Administrative Committee went on the tour of the fields Aug. 24 and got information about some of the projects researchers are focused on.

The research projects featured on the tour included insight into a newly discovered corn leaf disease and irrigated corn production practices.

Corn disease

Dr. Kirk Broders with Colorado State University has spent about a year researching a new corn disease that just made its way into Colorado. The worst cases have been in eastern Colorado, after it hit Nebraska first, but the disease was also found in Kansas, Iowa, South Dakota, Minnesota, Texas and Oklahoma.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture formally announced the disease Aug. 26.

"USDA does not consider this plant disease to be of quarantine significance for domestic or international trade, and intends to address it like any other bacterial disease of corn," the news release said.

There is a chance more instances of this leaf disease, as it looks similar to gray leaf spot. The new disease is restricted in the veins, like gray leaf spot, but the new disease is longer and wavy. Gray leaf disease, on the other hand, normally sees rectangular and short lesions.

The disease has been found on corn for grain, corn seed, sweet corn and popcorn.

Part of the reason the disease hasn't been made public — with a name — yet is due to the uncertainty of the extent of the disease. Broders said trade, yield and export doesn't seem to be affected by the disease.

The focus is on collecting samples and how to treat the disease. It survives winter with residue, and Broders said genetics might be the best way to control the disease.

Corn production

Part of agriculture research done at Colorado State comes from a need to see how farmers can optimize their earning and practices, without putting the burden onto producers. Dr. Raj Khosla is looking at the best way to figure out the best way to maximize the effectiveness fertilizer, water and seeds.

When it comes to fertilizer, the way a lot of farmers access their yield the average calculation doesn't paint an accurate representation of the average bushel per acre. Therefore parts of the crops will either be under or over-fertilized. This isn't due to miscalculations, it's because there isn't enough variability accounted for when calculating the averages.

If a crop's average was 182.5 bushels per acre, Khosla said, this is only accurate for about 2 percent of the field. If a farmer adds a range of 180.5-184.5, that only increases the accuracy to 8 percent.

"We need to get away from averages," Khosla said. "We need to tailor to variability."

And that's only one of three keys to optimizing crops for farmers. When it comes to water management, the ground's moisture levels change, so Khosla and his research team are looking at a way to best use water, and make sure the moisture isn't harnessed in the soil.

"Just because there is moisture there doesn't mean plants can extract it," he said.

The final piece Khosla looks at it seeding rate. His team discovered seeds to better where the yield is higher. If there is a way to make sure more seeds are focused on higher yield areas, and cutback in low yield areas, Khosla said, the seeds will be more productive.

The three aspects are entities that have been looked at differently, but when brought together factor into a crop's success.

"This is the first time we're doing all three together. ❖

Colorado Corn Administrative Committee investments

» $141,282 (over three years) to Raj Khosla, Robin Reich and Louis Longchamps to research and determine the most productive, efficient, profitable and sustainable practices in irrigated corn production.

» $31,580 to Kirk Broders to complete a survey of bacterial, fungal and viral pathogens off corn grown in Colorado, including foliar, ear, stalk and root pathogens.

» $30,425 (over two years) to Troy Bauder and Erik Wardle for project monitoring the effects of improved nutrient management methods commonly practiced by corn growers.

» $26,700 to Erik Carlson to develop additional methods for reducing deep percolation of nitrates into groundwater.

» $25,000 to Phil Westra and Scott Nissen for various objectives at the Center for Ecology, Evolution & Management of Pesticide Resistance.

» $24,850 to Godsey Precision AG LLC to look into water savings with variable-rate irrigation for farmers using water from the Ogallala Aquifer.

» $21,240 to Jerry Johnson and Sally Sauer to test yield performance of four drought-tolerant corn hybrids compared to four traditional, non-drought tolerant hybrids.

» $17,287 to Louis Comas with the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Agricultural Research Service to continue overseeing the development of a tool for monitoring and managing water stress in corn.