Biomechanics Laboratory

Crop stalk failure is a major problem for farmers and grain markets.  Zea mays (corn) is the world’s most commonly cultivated grain, with almost 1 billion tons produced annually.  The development of ultra-high yield corn hybrids has resulted in increased stalk failure, and the resolution of this problem has eluded plant breeders.

The application of biomechanical principles and techniques will allow plant breeders to selectively breed for both high yield and stronger stalks, which will lead to significant reduced rates of stalk failure and increased food production.  Unfortunately, there is currently no detailed biomechanical data on either the material properties or geometric features of corn stalks.​

The goal of this project is to collect essential data on corn stalk material properties and geometry. This data will be combined with stalk-level strength measurements to create biomechanical models of stalk tissues and structure.  Analysis of these models will be used to determine the material and geometric parameters that most significantly affect stalk strength.