For nearly five years, Stine has been experimenting with dwarf corn hybrids — developed from dwarf inbreds and designed to produce shorter, more efficient, and higher yielding plants. Dwarf corn hybrids average between 65 and 70 inches in height, with ear placement occurring at the 40-inch mark or higher on the plant. Approximately 4,000 different dwarf inbreds are currently being researched at the Stine nursery in Adel, Iowa, — all of which are bred for high-population planting — and Stine is already seeing the benefits of the smaller, more efficient plant structure.
One of the main benefits we’re seeing is there’s a longer management window because there’s more flexibility to operate equipment in and around your field, so you’re not relying solely on helicopters and planes for applications. You can also pack more plants into a smaller area, resulting in less overall biomass in the plant and better plant efficiency. Growers find that with taller plants, a lot of wasted energy goes into the stalk. In a shorter stalk, nutrients can distribute to the area of the plant that benefits the most — the ear.
Additionally, dwarf corn hybrids offer a higher resistance to lodging. Because of the plant’s significantly shorter architecture, it’s less likely to blow over or fall down in strong wind events. And some research suggests that there is a correlation between how close the tassel and ear are together on a plant and overall yield potential. This results in a more efficient pollination process, which in turn promotes a higher-yielding plant.
The work in this area is still very preliminary and, even if successful, Stine is still several years from introducing a dwarf corn hybrid to the market. But as our research continues at the Stine Seed Farm, it’s clear that dwarf corn may have a promising future in the corn industry.