Corn is the most productive cereal crop in the Midwest, and nitrogen fertilizer application to corn fields has polluted ground and surface waters and caused hypoxia in the Gulf of Mexico. Mandaamin Institute has developed nitrogen efficient, high-protein, high methionine, weed-competitive corn hybrids that will: 1) reduce the use of nitrogenous fertilizers, thereby reducing both input costs and pollution; 2) compete with weeds to improve the success of organic production systems; and 3) replace or reduce feeding of synthetic methionine to organic poultry, a common practice which is being phased out by federal mandate.
Under N-limited conditions, Mandaamin’s N-efficient inbreds and hybrids show strong growth, greater chlorophyll production, relative to standard cultivars and they compete better with weeds. Small plot research in 2015 and 2016 indicates that Mandaamin’s top hybrids are competitive in yield with conventional hybrids and produce considerably greater nutrient density and higher protein per acre than standard cultivars.
Mandaamin Institute has partnered with a commercial seed company (Foundation Organic Seeds, LLC, Onalaska, Wisconsin) and an organic farmer John Pounder (Pounder Brothers, Inc.) to produce seed in 2017 for larger-scale strip testing of these top hybrids. We propose testing these hybrids with 7 organic farmers on their farms in the southern Wisconsin region. Research will take place on 4 farms for the first and second year and 3 farms the third year. We will compare 3 hybrids; a normal hybrid, a N-efficient hybrid, and a N-efficient/putative N fixing hybrid. Testing will involve determining the impact of these hybrids on N uptake, N balance, N efficiency, N pollution, grain quality, and feed value under fertilized and unfertilized conditions on replicated strips. Soil research will estimate effects of plants on obtaining N from organic matter and N fixation.
We will work with poultry consultants and organic poultry producers to formulate diets and encourage the testing of diets on small flocks with grain from the experiments.
Information that focuses on the value of the hybrids to farmers will be distributed through publications, meetings, a newsletter, and the seed company. Evaluation will take place at our field days through questionnaires and through dialogues and will focus on the consequences of the work (i.e., what should the price be for high methionine corn?; what is the value of N efficient corn for replacing fertilizers?), as well as the quality of our results, and how to improve our approach.
Project objectives from proposal:
The research will show: 1) the yield, quality, and reliability of the N efficient corn and its economics; 2) how N balances in soils and plants are affected by hybrids and fertilization; 3) how the methionine content affects feed composition and price for organic poultry producers. Farmers and others will learn whether this corn will help reduce N fertilizers (hence less pollution of water and air), produce more profitable and valuable corn crops, better and cheaper feeds for organic producers, and provide an alternative to synthetic methionine. If so, farmers will begin to grow, test, sell, and feed this corn.