Seed Giant Bayer Shortens Corn Stalks to Withstand Extreme Winds
With corn stalks facing greater risks of being toppled by extreme winds, Bayer AG is working to make the plants shorter.
So-called short-stature corn will grow around five feet (1.5 meters) to seven feet, compared with the traditional height of 9-to-12 feet, said Bob Reiter, head of research and development for Bayer’s crop science division.
The pivot to shorter plants comes as farmers face extreme weather events at a seemingly faster pace. In 2020, a severe derecho leveled grain fields with winds greater than 100 miles-per-hour (161 kilometers), causing $11 billion in damages in the US Midwest.
“This new system will be a game changer in corn production,” said Reiter.
The reduced stature also allows for greater planting density, which should limit yield loss for growers, the company said. Farmers will be able to use standard chemical equipment on the ground all year long rather than switch to planes to spray chemicals once the plants reach their full height.
The company expects to raise about 60,000 acres of the corn in the next year. Bayer, the largest crop biotechnology company in the world, plans to roll out the seeds nationally in 2024 and expects it to spread to more than 700,000 acres.