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Bayer tech offers latest research on ‘short corn’
By Tim Alexander
Illinois Correspondent

DECATUR, Ill. – Several years of research has aided plant scientists in producing a hearty, resilient “short corn” plant that packs a similar yield punch to its full-sized cousin. During the 2023 Farm Progress Show (FPS), Bayer Crop Sciences had their latest PRECEON brand short corn hybrid technology on display at their Acres of Potential test plot and exhibit area.
Bayer technology development representative David Shenault said short corn can provide fuller season-round access to the crop, with the potential to reduce application costs for fungicides, insecticides and nitrogen. Short corn can also offer greater risk protection from wind events and better resistance to green snap due to its increased standability.
Over the past few years, Bayer researchers have conducted internal short corn trials across a range of environments at more than 500 locations in 16 states. The product was rolled out by Bayer in 2023 on a limited amount of acreage, with the results showcased during the 2023 FPS by Shenault and other Bayer agronomists.
“People are excited about short corn,” Shenault said. “I continue to tell people that it’s corn – only shorter. So, the same thought process you employ when selecting a hybrid, you can still use when selecting a short corn hybrid. We’ve got a limited number of them coming out and that makes sense for the breeding program. This is a breeding trait.”
New research discoveries on short corn shared by Shenault include insight into optimal planting dates based on region. “Planting dates are really critical. If you plant too early it can be just like with ‘normal’ corn – when planted early, the plant will be shorter. If you plant early and get drought, your ear height is going to be challenging. If you plant it in June like some of the corn you see here at the FPS, it’s going to be taller than late-planted short corn tends to be, and can be taller or as tall as a normal corn hybrid,” he said.
Early-planted (April) short corn at some Illinois Bayer test plots has grown so tall as to make conventional harvesting methods troublesome, Shenault continued: “It set nice ears, looks great, it did not blow over in any of the storms we had, but it’s going to be challenging to harvest. Short corn we planted in June has ears the same height as normal comparisons for the time of year, so we learned some things this year. And we’re going to continue to learn.”
Shenault shared an acronym Bayer is using to promote the benefits of their short corn hybrids. “PAY” stands for protection, accessibility and yield.
“(Short corn) tends to stand a lot better than normal stature corn. Some of the things we’ve seen out in Nebraska support that the green snap differences between short and normal stature corn will be dramatic – like 60 to 70 percent green snap on the tall corn and less than 10 percent on the short corn. The standability from a roots-and-stalk standpoint for short corn is improved because you don’t have that tall sail depending on a smaller root system,” he said.
While short corn will not tolerate hurricane-level winds and conditions, it will provide noticeably greater standability in lesser derecho and high wind events, Bayer research has shown.
In addition to short corn, Bayer’s Acres of Potential provided FPS visitors with a living timeline of corn and soybean germplasm development over the past two to three decades. Soybean weed control product studies were also highlighted, as well as fungicide product effectiveness versus tar spot on corn.