Genetic Expression

Many of my blogs come from phone conversations or emailed I field on a regular basis. Today’s food for thought is “Genetic Expression.” I have been blessed with being a part of both high-end genetics in the animal world as well as Forage research for new and improved forages for the farming and wildlife industry. Improved genetics takes many years from day 1 in development until the genetics is sold, planted and grown. Even if you improve any forage by 20 or 30%, that in itself is no guarantee. At times, it takes extra management when using improved genetics to prevent the wheels from falling off.


Improved genetics may focus on a variety of areas, such as plant yield, plant disease resistance, insect resistance, drought tolerance and standability. Many times, one area of improvement may lead to the final outcome being improved yield. Improved yield doesn’t come with air, sunlight and water alone. Increases in yields require higher nutrient demands. Being able to understand what those demands are is what I focus much of my energy and research on. Yet, the wildlife industry overlooks this area. People want to see forages that look good, and yield may not even be part of their mindset.


Many times, one may not even be buying improved genetics. What is in a bag of seed is a great unknown for many and that is understandable. Where many people focus only on the current time period, the future may come at a cost. When one plants forages current year, the outcome is full of unknowns. Will the blend be below average, average, above average or high yielding? What yield level are you putting nutrients down for? I’d guess many provide nutrients for average yields. In cases like that if you have a better-than-expected yield, you’re going to extract a proportionate amount of nutrients. This is where nutrient balance is an art.


Let’s look at it this way. If a farmer buys a brand-new corn that is being released for the 2023 season, that corn may yield 100 bushels per acre in the central sands of Wisconsin. It could yield 150 bushels per acre out in the clay hills of Kentucky. It could yield 250 bushels per acre in central Iowa. That same exact bag of Elite corn. It can be the same for “super-duper clover”. Super super can yield as low as 2 tons of forage dry matter per acre per year to as much as 8 tons of of dry matter per acre per year depending on many factors. What will allow it to express to its maximum potential? Mother nature can be the biggest factor to come into play. The current soil “microbial activity” is the 2nd most important factor. Next would be the current cation exchange capacity of one’s soil. Next would be the soil pH. Then the current nutrient balance of one’s soils will factor into the equation. All these things matter but your management also matters. It all matters and that is the point of this. There are no givens even with the best of the best. It is what you put into it. Sounds like a lot of work, right? Here is where I throw out another analogy. Some people shoot their bow’s all year. Other’s start shooting their bows in the spring. Yet, many might start shooting their bow within a few weeks of the season. The more you shoot, the better the chances of you to achieve success. The earlier you start to “express potential” the higher the chances of that potential.


My food for thought.



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