'Nitrogenes' to be topic at UI's Agronomy Day

A roundup of agricultural news:

URBANA — University of Illinois researchers have identified nine genes — called "NitroGenes" — that are associated with improving nitrogen use efficiency in corn.

By combining or stacking those NitroGenes through a breeding approach, researchers believe they may improve nitrogen utilization, grain yield and possibly other traits in corn.

The goal: getting bigger yields while applying less nitrogen to fields. UI Professor Stephen Moose and graduate fellow Jessica Bubert will discuss their findings at the UI's Agronomy Day on Aug. 15.

During the first year of field trials, researchers found improvement in both yield and nitrogen utilization when they enriched plants with those NitroGenes.

"Enrichment can result in an 8.8 percent increase in acquired nitrogen ... corresponding to a yield increase of 6.9 percent, or 5 to 10 bushels per acre," a UI news release stated.

The study is now in its second and final season. But Moose said results from the first season indicate the strategy to "pyramid" NitroGenes is a viable option for improving nitrogen use efficiency and nitrogen-dependent yield.

Corn, soybean yield outlook looks promising

URBANA — Prospects look good for strong corn and soybean yields this year, a University of Illinois agricultural economist said.

"Judging from current crop condition ratings, yield prospects at this stage of the growing season are quite good," Darrel Good said in a UI release issued Monday.

However, weather over the next two months will be key.

Opinions differ on longer-term weather forecasts. But prospects for moderating temperatures and thunderstorms "bode well" for yield prospects, Good said.

Earlier this month, UI crop sciences Professor Emerson Nafziger said above-normal rainfall in late June may not have harmed the Illinois corn crop much.

Standing water and wet soil can badly damage a rapidly growing corn crop, Nafziger said. But there's not much evidence that reduced photosynthetic rates over a few days has much effect on yields, provided it happens more than one to two weeks before tasseling.

Warm, saturated soils tend to lose nitrogen. But Nafziger said he doesn't think "such losses have been very large in most fields, given the temperatures and the fact that most flooding was temporary."

Before applying more nitrogen to fields, farmers should wait to see if their crop recovers its green color, Nafziger said.

"Even without adding more nitrogen, odds are good that the crop will recover and thrive in the coming weeks, providing the weather remains favorable," he said.

UI professor studying grain storage in Brazil

URBANA — Brazil's climate allows the country to grow corn and soybeans. But a lack of grain storage has led to big inefficiencies there.

University of Illinois agricultural economist Peter Goldsmith has been studying the situation as a project of the Archer Daniels Midland Institute for the Prevention of Postharvest Loss.

In a UI news release, Goldsmith said tropical regions will be producing more of the world's food, so creating more efficient harvesting, transporting and storage of grain there will help ensure there's enough grain to feed and fuel the world.

In the Brazilian state of Mato Grosso, which produces 38 percent of Brazil's soybeans, farmers have a 10 percent postharvest loss, partially due to a lack of storage capacity.

Goldsmith said soybean storage there is 35 percent under capacity, and the situation is aggravated by the rapidly increasing production of second-crop maize.

His study will help determine the best, most convenient locations for additional storage, the release stated.

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