Genetic Garden Shows How Different Types of Corn React to Drought

by Rachel Norby, Seed-2-Soil® Summer Intern

As you drive through the countryside, it’s evident that different corn hybrids are handling the drought stress differently.  Some hybrids have stronger roots and stalks, so they’re holding up better in these dry conditions.  Other hybrids have weaker stalks and are lodging.

Latham Hi-Tech Seeds’ Genetic Garden shows how corn from many different eras is reacting to the drought conditions.  You can see how much better today’s hybrids can withstand the high heat and low moisture than their early ancestors.

Genetic Garden Shows Drought Stress

Although minimal irrigation was used to keep our “living museum of corn” alive for the Latham Country Fair on August 25, many varieties still reacted to the drought.  You’ll see lodging in many early varieties.  (NOTE:  “Early” is being used here to reference the chronological history corn of varieties, not as in the relative maturity of hybrids.)

Open-pollinated corn varieties grown during the Dust Bowl of the 1930s didn’t pollinate then, and you’ll see the same thing happened in our Genetic Garden.  A corn variety found in the Genetic Garden from around the time of the 1988 drought is also showing signs of stress.  One of the differences in the droughts of 1988 and 2012, however, is there was less rainfall during the months of April to June in 1988 than we received in 2012.  This lack of rain during that quarter of the year meant more stress on crops during early season growth compared to this year when the majority of the stress happened around the time of pollination.

We’d like to invite you to see the differences for yourself!  Take a walk through our “living museum of corn” on Saturday, Aug. 25, during the Latham Country Fair.  We’ll be hosting tours between 9 a.m. and 3 p.m.