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Standability Concerns in Corn

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Matt Hutcheson, CCA
Seed Consultants, Inc.

As harvest begins across the Eastern Corn Belt, growers should be aware that some corn fields will need to be harvested before others. Although environmental conditions allowed for a favorable growing season in many areas, the corn crop was exposed to several stresses that have created standability concerns this fall.

Due to the wet spring weather, corn planting was delayed in parts of our sales footprint. As a result of later planting dates corn plants grow taller than normal with higher ear placement. A tall plant with a higher ear placement is more top-heavy and more susceptible to stalk lodging.

Foliar diseases such as Gray Leaf Spot and Northern Corn Leaf Blight arrived early and developed quickly, especially on hybrids with average or below-average tolerance to these diseases. Stress caused by disease has weakened corn stalks, while other disease infection has caused the development of stalks rots.

Although much of the Eastern Corn Belt had more than enough rainfall this year, some areas experienced hot and dry conditions following pollination and during grain fill. This stress on the plant caused it to cannibalize the stalk tissue so that it could fill out the ear, further weakening stalks.

As growers head to the fields over the next few weeks, it is important to determine which fields have reduced stalk quality and are more at risk for stalk lodging. Scouting fields ahead of harvest will allow growers to identify problem areas. A general idea of stalk strength can be determined by pinching the bottoms of stalks and pushing on the tops of the plant to find stalks with compromised quality and observe how easily stalks and be broken over. Fields with questionable stalk quality should be harvest first to avoid losses due to stalk lodging.

Have a great week!