RESEARCH ROUNDUP

FIND OUT WHAT’S NEW IN THE WORLD OF RESEARCH

Improving cold tolerance in corn
Katharine Tuerke
Cold snaps in the spring – such as the one Ontario experienced earlier this year – can damage corn seedlings and reduce yield. But corn is genetically diverse. And researchers believe the genes in some varieties could enhance the plant’s cold tolerance.

Profs. Lewis Lukens and Hugh Earl are assessing the cold tolerance and recovery of different types of feed corn to identify the best varieties and the genetic basis for their superiority.
 
To mimic spring cold snaps in the lab, the researchers grow two sets of seedlings in chambers that have typical early spring temperatures. Some seedlings are exposed to overnight cold stress; then, the plants’ recovery is assessed a few days later.

Early findings suggest that some genotypes’ growth rates and leaf damage are less than others in cold conditions.
 
“By studying the natural variation of cold-tolerance in corn, we hope to develop a better product to increase farmers’ yields and profits,” says Lukens.

Funding for this research is provided by Grain Farmers of Ontario, the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council as well as support from the private sector.

SMARTer soybean yields
Anthony Ngai
Growing a crop of soybeans or wheat is expensive – and inputs just seem to rise in cost with every growing season.

But are some input combinations more economical than others? That’s what researchers want to know, using a strategy called SMART – Strategic Management Adding Revenue Today.

University of Guelph field crop agronomist Prof. David Hooker, along with Ontario Ministry of Agriculture Food and Rural Affairs soybean specialist Horst Bohner and cereals specialist Peter Johnson, are working with fungicides, seed varieties, fertilizers, seed treatments and other inputs to determine which combinations will produce high yields and make better profits for the producer.

“Of course if you throw all the inputs at soybeans, you will get more yield,” says Bohner. “But we are trying to hone in on the specific inputs that can increase yield and profit.”

In one case, the team found input costs enhanced yield by 6.8 more bushels per acre. However, this was not enough to offset the extra costs of the inputs.

This project is funded by Grain Farmers of Ontario and Syngenta.

Managing financial risk and climate change
Katy Jonker
Production problems stemming from global warming trends raise questions about whether crop risk management programs can provide enough funds to support farmers without bankrupting the programs themselves.

That’s what a University of Guelph research team led by Prof. Alan Ker, from the Department of Food, Agriculture and Resource Economics, is trying to predict. He is looking at how weather patterns such as rising temperatures and depleting water sources are likely to affect corn, soybean and wheat yields. Then he’s creating models to simulate the impact of climate variables on yields, to see firsthand how a change in conditions will impact returns.

That will determine risk management policies; specifically, if the programs are endowed well enough to survive significant change.

“The models and simulations we’ve created are going to allow us to evaluate a lot more scenarios than have been evaluated in the past and will give us a realistic idea of whether the current risk management program needs augmenting,” says Ker.

Collaborators include Prof. Satheesh Aradhyula from the University of Arizona, Prof. Iftekharul Haque from BRAC University, masters’ student Tor Tolhurst and PhD students Anas Ramadan and Shuang Li.

Funding for this project is provided by Grain Farmers of Ontario and the OMAFRA-U of G Partnership.


Research Roundup is provided by members of SPARK (Students Promoting Awareness of Research Knowledge) at the University of Guelph’s Office of Research. For more information, contact a SPARK writer at 519-824-4120, ext. 52667.

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