LINCOLN, Neb. — In a recent poll of 500 corn farmers, more than half said they are dealing with moderate to severe drought stress this season, according to Pioneer.
Severe drought stress can cause yield losses up to 50%. This is particularly likely if drought stress occurs during flowering, while pollinating and into early kernel set.
“Under moderate stress levels, we can see shorter plants or smaller leaves if it occurs during the vegetative growth stage,” said Dan Berning, Pioneer agronomy manager.
“We may miss a few kernels if it occurs during the pollination period. At grain fill timing, we’ll tend to see less kernel depth.
“Under severe drought stress, we can really begin to see the plant tissues of the leaves scald or flash. We can also frequently see nutrient deficiencies like nitrogen or potassium because the plant isn’t able to pull up enough moisture through the roots and bring those nutrients with it.”
Berning shared five tips to help reduce the risk of drought affecting cornfields next season:
1. Residue is important. Residue helps reduce water loss through evaporation and protect soil from wind. Reduce spring tillage, if possible, to preserve soil moisture.
2. Plant deep enough. Soil near the surface dries more quickly, which can intensify problems. Target a depth of 2 to 3 inches in most situations and make sure to plant into moisture.
3. Watch fertility — especially potassium. Less soil moisture can mean less nutrient uptake. Potassium deficiency can be exacerbated by drought stress.
4. Relieve other stresses. Protect plants from additional stresses like disease, weed competition and insects.
5. Select drought-tolerant hybrids, such as Optimum AQUAmax hybrids, that include key traits designed to help protect against yield loss and use less water per bushel produced.