Deon Oat.

2018-19 Rapid Ag: Stems of Steel: a structural engineering approach to cereal lodging

June 9, 2017

Principal Leader

Kevin Smith

Department

Department of Genetics and Agronomy 

Funding Awarded

  • 2018 Fiscal Year: $101,010
  • 2019 Fiscal Year: $77,610

The Problem

Lodging, the act of the stem to lose its vertical position, of cereal crops occurs during hard rain falls and/or high winds [1]. If lodging is severe, then a field or section of a field cannot be harvested using mechanical means. Therefore, a producer either has a reduction in yield or a complete loss of a crop. In order to mitigate these losses, crops need to be engineered to resist lodging.  

Background

Historically (i.e. prior to mechanical harvesting) lodging was an inconvenience, not the significant problem it is now. The risk of lodging of cereals was greatly reduced during the 1960’s and 70’s with the introduction of semi-dwarfs [2]. However, some crops like oats have not been successfully reduced in height, therefore still at risk for high incidences of lodging under historical weather patterns. The reduction of height and increase in panicle size has driven an increase in high yield cereals. But, the continued increase of high-yielding crops cannot continue to by developed using agronomic methods alone [3], nor do agronomic methods take into consideration of the structural physics of grain weight and lodging [1,3]. Weather patterns in the last 10 years have seen increased wind and torrential downpours. Often, cereal crops do not have the structural capacity to maintain remain vertical under these forces [1]. Producers need varieties that can withstand storms and provide a secure local supply of cereals to processors. 

We propose an innovated partnership between agricultural researchers, agricultural engineers, and civil engineers to study and breed for lodging resistant cereals by utilizing structural engineering principles[4]. We will produce a structural model of small grain (oat, barley, wheat) stalks and analyze the data in a way similar to the method forensic engineers use to determine why buildings collapse during earthquakes. Once the model is validated (tested) both in the lab and under field conditions, we will screen new lines in the UMN oat breeding pipeline for lodge-free characteristics. This screening entails high resolution CT scans allowing breeders to conduct high-through put phenotyping without having to grow the crop in the field and wait for natural lodging events to occur, which saves both money and time after the initial cost of the model development. We will also carefully measure the environment conditions during lodging events in the field including customized weather stations and synthetic stalks that will characterize plant response to weather conditions. This information will guide our development of high-throughput field screening system for lodging.

Objectives

  1. Determine environmental and structural reasons for lodging in small grains (oat, barley, wheat)
    1. Monitor environmental conditions during lodging events and plant responses in the field.
    2. Determine possible types of stem failures that lead to lodging in the field
    3. Develop a structural finite-element model of small grain stem interior to elucidate structural failure points. This model will create “new” phenotypes to measure and screen.
  2. Develop high thru-put screening for new phenotypes associated with lodging
    1. Identify key structures, traits, and/or markers associated with lodging resistance.
    2. Develop robust field screening methods for high-throughput screening of oat, barley and wheat in the field.
    3. Validate structural phenotypes with field experimentation.

References

[1] Martinez-Vazquez. 2016. Agriculture and Forest Meteorology
[2] Rajkumara. 2008. Agriculture Review
[3] Berry et al. 2004. Advances in Agronomy
[4] Robertson et al. 2015. Crop Science