February-March Newsletter 2018

Corn Growing in the Southern Hemisphere

Winter nursery is a common term used by plant breeders to define the activities undertaken during the winter season to support the breeding activities after the summer season in their home location. Winter nurseries are used for advancing breeding generations, making seed of new hybrid combinations for testing, seed increases or working on specialty products or new projects. 

The term Counter Season is more commonly used by seed producers to define the growing season in the regions where a second crop can be grown. Parent seed increases or seed production can be done to accelerate the entry of new hybrids into the market. 

This year, GEI winter breeding activities are being conducted in Chile in an area that is GMO free. Planting was done in September with pollinations starting January 13 and were finished by the end of that month. GEI efforts in this nursery are concentrated mostly into two main projects: one is the development of a new blue corn hybrid and the development of a more advanced type of Resistant Starch hybrid with enhanced starch content and qualities. 

We evaluated test hybrids of each type and made seed increases. The corn growth was excellent. The combination of warm days, cool nights and drip irrigation provides the ideal environment for growth and good yields. We will be planting the seed harvested from this nursery this summer to continue the development of the commercial products.

Our Trip to Chillán, Chile

While visiting our winter nursery, we had the opportunity to see some of the area. The region has an active volcano that according to the newspaper, was getting close to erupting. Chillán was destroyed in 1939 by an 8.3 earthquake. It’s a very pretty subtropical town with relatively new architecture. 

The Cathedral of Chillán is a memorial to the 5,648 victims of the earthquake of January 24, 1939. The town now has a population of over 175,000. We walked to the Mercado Techado (roofed market). The fruits and vegetables were beautiful. The tomatoes were $1.00 per kilo, peppers $1 each, green beans $2 per kilo, garlic 3 heads for $1, Bolivian corn ears $1 for 2, and a subtropical fruit called pepino dulce at $2 per kilo. The Bolivian corn really caught our eye. It was about 8’ long with a girth of about 30 rows.

The town is very proud of the fact that the liberator of Chile, Bernardo O’Higgins was born there. There is a beautiful monument in the town square. We drove up the hills toward the Andean volcano. There were a lot of tourist cabins. It was summer vacation time before school starts. Chillán is also famous as a ski resort area. The ski slopes are close to the volcano.

The Role of Land, Labor, & Capital in the Agricultural Development in Chile: A Case Study in Fruit Production Investments in Chile

Chile is located on the western coast of South America adjoining the Pacific Ocean. The country extends from southern Peru in the north to the tip end of South America. The climate is diverse from tropical to subtropical to temperate. All maturities of temperate corn can be grown in Chile in the appropriate latitudes. Chile climate resembles California growing areas for vegetable production and fruit production. Chile is one of the larger fruit producer and exporter to the U.S. Their currency and their balance of payments are strong because of the export trade. 

During the visit to Chile, we learned about some of the most current issues in agriculture. One is the vision of Chilean entrepreneurs to exploit their counter season location to the U.S. to become the main suppliers of agricultural products with emphasis on fruits and nuts to the U.S. market. 

Chile has a vision of building a pipe line and reservoirs to move the excess water from the snow melts in the mountains to build an irrigation system for 2.5 million acres. This would be a boom to their agriculture. 

I read an article about investment in fruit production and the discussion about farm ownership. What got my attention was the discussion about farmers that struggle finding a way to come out of a narrow range of options where access to capital runs against the possibilities of success because the size of the enterprise or the need of capital that in many cases exceed the value of the land and the tendency of farmers of going alone. 
The advice of experts favors making alliances where farmers would contribute with land, expertise and work to attract investments that could scale up agricultural enterprises. This would be the case for new investments in fruit production for export in Chile. 

Reading this article, I could see the contrast of capital and land and labor participation in Chile versus the large investments in confinements in Iowa without direct participation of farmer owners of the land needed to produce the products to make the feed. This leaves out the farmer owners from participating in the economy of emerging new businesses while the state government is on the side of outside investors at the expense of farmers. I think that a change of thinking is needed in our agricultural development. 

Conventional Corn 2018

When we talk about a hybrid the first question that comes to mind is how much does it yield? This is a legitimate question and there is an answer from yield test trial results. It takes 5-10 years to develop a hybrid.  

There are several years of yield testing and evaluations before a hybrid becomes a commercial product. Once a hybrid is in the hands of the farmer, one of the questions posed to agronomists is how do you make a hybrid yield more? 

Some of the most important considerations to maximize yield are: 

Yield potential
Plant population
Relative maturity
Seed emergence
Stress tolerance
Disease tolerance
Seed treatments


1 lb of N per bushel harvested
0.5 lb of N stover production per bushel of grain

0.35 lb of P 2 O 5 per bushel

0.25 lb of K 2 O per bushel

For 300 bu/ac yieldNitrogen – 450 lbs requiredActual application – 250 to 350 lbs/acre

Insect management
Disease management
Weed management  

Hybrid Selections for Your Farm

Conventional corn:          
GEI 9010 ORG   RM 95N- 105 C 
GEI 9700 RM108GEI 9999 RM 110 
GEI 9717 RM 112

Specialty corns:
GEI 9584W   RM 110 white corn
GEI 411C  RM 108   high anthocyanin content (blueberry of corn)
GEI 9887 lys RM 105 high lysine, high quality protein
GEI 101 lys RM 105-108 high lysine, high quality protein
GEI 114 lys RM 114 high lysine, high quality protein
GEI 9700 wx  RM 110 High amylopectin starch- highly digestible starch, high energy
GEI 2318   RM 114 high pro vitamin A, high protein-oil content, high yield of grits
GEI 9717  RM 112 hard endosperm corn, high protein, high yield of grits