Corn School: Corn agronomy for western Canadian conditions

Corn is moving into new territory — mainly west and north — but the agronomic information farmers in these new areas rely on is still largely based on data from places such as Illinois and Iowa. This has provided a basis for new corn farmers to get started, but there are a lot of differences between Iowa and Western Canada.

Yvonne Lawley, a professor at the University of Manitoba, recently gave a presentation on these differences at the CropConnect conference at Winnipeg Manitoba. In this episode of Corn School she explains why corn agronomy research in non-traditional areas is so important.

Yields of corn per acre have increased a lot, Lawley says, but our acreage of corn has been increasing slower than the increase in yield in corn. “About five years ago, we started talking about some of the agronomic issues that are important to increase adoption of corn in Manitoba,” she says

Lawley’s work is a  five-year project looking at corn agronomy from many different angles, including rotation, residue management, as well as looking at corn heat units and how well we can predict corn disease and pest cycles. Of course, there’s an economic component, too.

Residue management in corn can be quite intimidating, Lawley says, especially when farmers are already finding it difficult to deal with the amount of wheat residue they produce. In this project, she says, they looked at different tillage tools to reduce residue, with a focus on conservation tillage.

Watch the entire interview with University of Manitoba professor Yvonne Lawley, below. Story continues below player. 

Lawley suggests that the main tool used to decide which variety is most suited to which area may not work that well in more northern regions. “With corn heat units, we were concerned about our ability to predict corn maturity, and as breeders are adapting this corn to this new Prairie environment, how reliably could we use things like corn heat units to select corn varieties.”

She says though, that this research is still in its early days. “I think for this project, all we’ve done is really open the can of worms.”

One thing that has not gotten a lot of attention in most research is just how unusual it is to have corn as a part of a common Western Canadian rotation. There are very few places in the world that would grow corn in rotation with canola, for example. “In Western Canada, and in Manitoba in particular, we’re growing corn in rotation with a wider variety of crops than the major corn growing areas where we tend to get a lot of our research from.”

Lawley is hoping that continued agronomic research will help farmers be more successful growing corn in new areas.

You can watch more Corn School episodes by following this link.

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