The Future of Short-stature Corn: Harnessing Remote Sensing for Seed Trait Advancements
| May 19, 2023 |
Sunset over a corn field

Over the past several decades, advancements in seed breeding and research have resulted in some amazing innovation in the field today.

From marker-assisted breeding to CRISPR-Cas9 technologies, researchers have been able to deliver advanced seed traits that have forever changed our world for the better – whether its helping growers increase their yields or delivering seeds with increased vitamin or mineral content to give consumers increased nutritional value.

What’s most exciting? These advancements are just the start! Most recently, the market has been abuzz with the potential for dwarf corn – or short-stature corn – and what it can mean for some of the challenges growers face, as well as how continued advancements with this trait can help to drive food productivity and sustainability throughout our world.


Why Short-stature Corn?

Seed research and product development tends to be focused in accommodating three macro challenges for our world:

  • Climate resiliency and changing weather patterns, which are creating increasing challenges with weeds, pest and disease, and storm damage
  • Sustainability to preserve and enhance our finite farmland
  • Food productivity augmentation in order to support the world’s growing population


While it may seem lofty, short-stature corn checks the boxes for all of these – and it is predominantly because of its shorter plant height.

The shorter stalks provide improved resistance against lodging – which means our changing weather patterns can have less of a negative impact on corn in the field. Researchers at Yale found that wind speeds have actually increased compared to previous decades, and we know that more severe weather events are becoming more of a challenge, as well.

Linked to this lodging resistance also comes standability – and, this ability to reduce risk for plant breakage or lodging helps to maximize yield as well.

What’s also interesting is that this type of corn tends to use water and nutrients more efficient – mostly because of the reduced height and compact canopy. And, in the case that there needs to be pest and disease control, the reduced plant height can facilitate better spray coverage – improving the effectiveness of chemical applications. For growers, this is exciting: it means that they can improve margins by generating higher yields with lower input requirements.

The shorter height of this corn continues to give back even when it comes to harvest; meaning that these operations can be more efficient and easier because of the reduced crop material.


What’s Next for Short-stature Corn?

While short-stature corn isn’t exactly new to the market, new releases have brought it back into the limelight – and has generated significant buzz, considering our world is in a much different place, given food productivity and sustainability goals.

Even so, there’s still a path of innovation for this unique seed trait. Much like the smart phones we hold in our hands every single day, the critical innovation – the development of dwarf corn traits – has transformed productivity for corn; but we know that the advancements that follow will continue to accelerate the benefits this can provide to our world.

This will be imperative. While short-stature corn has demonstrated early success in helping to move sustainability initiatives ahead while combatting the changes in weather, it can continue to have a positive impact in these areas.

Continuing to refine and enhance the genetic makeup of short-stature corn to make it even more effective will need to be a focus – and to do so, it will result a deeper dive into data to understand where there are improvements within genetic enhancement and trait stacking.

This will need to happen quickly (or as quickly as it can happen in our seasonal world). With more options on the market, the adoption and market for short-stature corn will likely grow rapidly because of the lift that it gives to growers from a resource management perspective, and because of what it promises to deliver for yield. In doing so, continued investments in pushing this seed forward will be imperative.

Because of this, every season matters. This will make it even more important to get data-driven insight into crop health trends over the season. Integrating precision agriculture technologies and remote sensing into the continued research and product development for this seed trait will be critical.

Remote sensing can uncover nutrient status and water use, to give an indication of how these traits are changing crop management strategies because of their less intensive use of key resources. Unlocking the ability for researchers, agronomists, and growers to make data-driven decisions and optimize management practices will further enhance the performance of short-stature corn while enabling growers to achieve higher levels of efficiency, productivity, and sustainability.

Specifically, we can use remote sensing in a few key areas to support further development of the seed trait for short-stature corn, including:

  • Understanding crop health, particularly as we look at trends over time (either throughout a season or year over year)
  • Identifying resource efficiency, including nutrient status and uptake to understand its impact on overall health and yield
  • Tracking crop stress caused by pest, disease, weeds, to help understand where there may be continued gains in resiliency


It doesn’t stop there. Going a step further to use agronomic modeling can help uncover key data points, like nutrient response or yield and outcomes, to understand how traits continue to perform – helping to augment advancements within short-stature corn and continue to accelerate time-to-market.


This Will Not Be a Solo Endeavor

To be most successful at bringing this to market and proving the value of short-stature corn – especially as new varieties are developed – collaborating with those throughout the agricultural value chain will be imperative.

Technology providers like Sentera can augment product development by providing researchers with essential insight into the performance of existing and new traits. This can range from providing plant-level measurements throughout the season to understand what’s happening at any given point, helping to provide unbiased data to compare different traits and validate key outcomes. Today’s technology providers can go a layer deeper and generate predictive analytics to help inform what will happen next.

For retail agronomists, remote sensing can help in a few key areas; from providing data for in-field product comparisons to showcase the true gains with short-stature corn to offering data capture services throughout the season to inform decisions, particularly as growers adjust to a less resource-intensive crop.


With the ability to partner with technology providers and others in the industry, this will truly unlock the next advancement in short-stature corn to continue to deliver on what matters most: delivering on sustainable farming practices while continuing to meet the diverse, growing food needs of our world.


Get a deep dive into how ag analytics can move innovation forward in our webinar, From Data Capture to Analysis: Getting the Data That Matters for Ag Research.
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