By Ryan McAllister, CCA, Team Sales Agronomist for Beck’s Hybrids
This picture was taken on Friday, July 22nd. Believe it or not, by Monday, July 25, 2011 this corn field is all standing upright…goosenecked, but standing up. If someone saw this field today, like I did, they would never believe that it looked like this on Friday.
What is causing this corn to go down?
1. We never really achieved “ideal” planting conditions. Therefore, in-furrow compaction was a concern. For May planted corn, its early life was full of water, which did not encourage downward root development. For June planted corn, the scenario was a bit different. Many June planted fields received below normal or normal amounts of rain shortly after planting and then turned off bone dry until recently.
2. June planted fields were more at risk for downed corn than the May planted fields.
3. June planted fields had decent, but not great, root systems below ground. However, those are not the root systems that hold the plant upright. Brace roots are responsible for that. Brace root development has been little to none. Brace roots were not able to develop properly due to the excessively dry soils in the top 1-2 inches from the lack of rain. If you look at your plants, look at the lack of brace root development. You will see that they are most likely, 1 to 3-inches long and never able to successfully penetrate the soil due to the hot/dry soil conditions. With a lack of brace roots whose purpose is to hold your plant upright, it doesn’t take much wind/rain to knock it over.
Are certain hybrids worse than others?
The short answer is, no. I have had customers call and say that one hybrid is most certainly worse, but then the next guy calls and says that that one was his best.
Why is one field worse than others then?
It all comes back to moisture in several ways.
1. Does this field hold moisture a little better than the next one? The one that holds more water would tend to have better brace root development during these past dry 6 weeks or so.
2. Was the better field planted earlier? Generally, I have found that the earliest planted field was better because it achieved brace root development prior to it turning dry. The exception? If the earliest planted field was early planted because it was gravel or tends to be moisture stressed later on, then it may have went down as well.
3. Sometimes the first planted field is worse. This is because it was planted three days before it was fit and suffered in-furrow compaction. It did not negatively affect it until it turned dry. Those fields that were planted the wettest, if dry weather was timed just right with brace root development, were already stressed from compaction, now throw hot/dry on top of it that equals “no brace roots.”
What am I trying to say here? It sounds like there are a lot of scenarios!
There are. Three strikes and you are out! Not one. Not two. Three. Something happened first that led to something that ultimately led to a lack of brace roots. When you have no brace roots, your corn won’t stand.
What can I expect here?
Well, just like the picture, three days later that corn is upright. If your storm was accompanied by rain, that rain is what you have been needing to kick start brace root development. It will, and your corn plants will “sled runner,” “goose-neck,” or “leaning tower of Pisa” themselves right back up. They will be going all directions but will come back up. If shallow planting accompanied a lack of brace roots, some plants may have pulled themselves so far out of the ground that they aren’t coming back. For the most part though, given a few days, you will be amazed at how fast those fields will “rise” back up again. Schedule those fields for an earlier harvest. They will be challenging and slow, but remember, it could be worse. If high winds blew through with no brace roots and no rain, those fields would have little hope. If you received rain with the wind, your field will live to fight another day!