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Modern Corn Roots Bred to Meet Soil Needs

October 18, 2017
This agronomic image shows a corn plant's root system.

NK has classified its corn germplasm pool into three distinct root systems due to the genetic diversity within the NK seed lineup. These three types are classified as penetrating, fibrous and modified roots, and when placed in the correct environment, can maximize hybrid performance.

Here are several examples of how to properly align root and soil structures:

  • A poorly drained soil combined with a corn-on-corn rotation would benefit from a hybrid that has a penetrating to modified root type. Penetrating roots are able to move further through the depths of the plate-like soil structure.
  • In comparison, a coarser soil that doesn’t hold water as well may benefit from the fibrous to modified root type. This is because fibrous root types consume nutrients and moisture near the soil surface to provide a broader footprint under the corn plant that helps maximize water and nutrient uptake.
  • The modified root structure brings the best qualities of the penetrating and fibrous root types together, as pictured above at the Stanton, MN, Grow More™ Experience site.

Historically, Minnesota growers plant modified to penetrating root types in the higher organic matter soils across the northwestern Red River Valley, central and southern parts of the state. More modified to fibrous root types are typically placed in the north and eastern parts of the state where soils may be coarser in texture. This is a bit contradictory to the general pattern of the U.S. where penetrating roots are traditionally planted the eastern half of the U.S. due to poor soil drainage, and fibrous roots are often planted in western, drier states for faster water consumption when it does rain.

Ideally, root structures would penetrate the soil while also having fibrous characteristics that enable enough space for water and nutrient consumption. That’s why modern corn hybrids are being bred to contain properties from both fibrous and penetrating root types, to help meet evolving hybrid needs.

To find out which root structures are right for your fields’ soil types, contact your Syngenta representative or NK® Retailer with questions or for additional agronomic insights.

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All photos are either the property of Syngenta or are used with permission.