Assessing pre-harvest challenges in corn

By Matt Reese

There is no question some combines around the state will be harvesting big corn yields this fall. Many areas of the state had excellent growing conditions to set the stage for great corn in 2021. Some, however, did not. 

“It definitely has been a year of variability again. We have areas that will have a really good corn crop across my geography. Unfortunately we have areas that have not gotten much rain and things are a little tough,” said Roy Ulrich, technical agronomist for Dekalb and Asgrow in southern Ohio. “We also have some guys who got way too much rain, either early on or here more recently, and it will impact this crop negatively. I think we have a lot of fields that are probably going to sit at trendline yield or just above and we are going to have some challenged areas as well.”

Ulrich was recently in one of those challenged fields.

“I was in a field that went in fairly early in April and then got sidedressed and got 10.5 inches of rain in June after it was sidedressed. Then it got hot and dry. There was quite a bit of nitrogen loss in that field,” he said. “In those cases I’m a little bit worried about stalk integrity. The plant is great about doing all it can for the grower, but it sacrifices itself by pulling from the stalk and the lower plant to fill the ear. Anyone who had those kinds of conditions, you definitely want to go out and do some push tests or some pinch tests in the coming weeks to figure out what the stalk integrity will be like. We’ll have some areas that will be challenged due to the stress that the corn plant went through. Losing nitrogen and then getting dry late hits that plant on both ends.”

Disease issues may also be taking a toll.

“There are a lot of acres that were treated with a fungicide, but even the best fungicides are starting to tail off now. You may see gray leaf spot and northern corn leaf blight start to ramp back up,” Ulrich said. “As it gets later in grain fill, even the plant’s natural tolerance of those diseases starts to wane a little bit. We are going to see some fields that lose yield from those foliar diseases.”

In fields facing challenges in 2021, now is a great time to get out and assess the causes of those issues, and start thinking about hybrids to address them in 2022.

“Spend some time scouting,” Ulrich said. “Now is a great time to be out there and take an end-of-the-season look at the crop. What is your final stand? Is it short on nitrogen? Get out and learn about your crop. Dig into what the crop went through and that will give you a leg up on what you may need to tweak for the 2022 growing season.”

This column was contributed by Ohio’s Country Journal for DEKALB.

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