DataSheet_1_Predicting corn tiller development in restrictive environments can be achieved to enhance defensive management decision tools for producers.pdf
While globally appreciated for reliable, intensification-friendly phenotypes, modern corn (Zea mays L.) genotypes retain crop plasticity potential. For example, weather and heterogeneous field conditions can overcome phenotype uniformity and facilitate tiller expression. Such plasticity may be of interest in restrictive or otherwise variable environments around the world, where corn production is steadily expanding. No substantial effort has been made in available literature to predict tiller development in field scenarios, which could provide insight on corn plasticity capabilities and drivers. Therefore, the objectives of this investigation are as follows: 1) identify environment, management, or combinations of these factors key to accurately predict tiller density dynamics in corn; and 2) test outof-season prediction accuracy for identified factors.Methods
Replicated field trials were conducted in 17 diverse site-years in Kansas (United States) during the 2019, 2020, and 2021 seasons. Two modern corn genotypes were evaluated with target plant densities of 25000, 42000, and 60000 plants ha -1. Environmental, phenological, and morphological data were recorded and evaluated with generalized additive models.Results
Plant density interactions with cumulative growing degree days, photothermal quotient, mean minimum and maximum daily temperatures, cumulative vapor pressure deficit, soil nitrate, and soil phosphorus were identified as important predictive factors of tiller density. Many of these factors had stark non-limiting thresholds. Factors impacting growth rates and photosynthesis (specifically vapor pressure deficit and maximum temperatures) were most sensitive to changes in plant density. Out-of-season prediction errors were seasonally variable, highlighting model limitations due to training datasets.Discussion
This study demonstrates that tillering is a predictable plasticity mechanism in corn, and therefore could be incorporated into decision tools for restrictive growing regions. While useful for diagnostics, these models are limited in forecast utility and should be coupled with appropriate decision theory and risk assessments for producers in climatically and socioeconomically vulnerable environments.