October 16, 2021

Indiana corn crop marches toward a strong finish

DELPHI, Ind. — Jason Harmon is ready to see the 2021 Indiana corn crop.

“I am excited for this harvest. I think a lot of people are. I want to see these combines start going and see what we have on this crop for 2021,” said Harmon, DEKALB Asgrow technical agronomist for northern Indiana.

When it comes to the 2021 corn crop in Harmon’s territory, it’s been a good year so far for the corn crop. Well, mostly.

“It was an interesting spring with a lot of different conditions across northern Indiana. Some people were still dry and some people had some moisture, but we got everything in the ground,” said Harmon, who said the region mostly started out on a dry note.

One of the lessons learned from the 2021 spring planting season, at least for Harmon, is the value of ideal seedbed conditions, even with and maybe especially with less than ideal weather forecasts.

“When the first part of April rolled around, the ground was in perfect condition, but we were concerned with the possibility of an unfavorable forecast. It was a key learning event for me this year. A perfect seedbed is something I won’t underestimate in the future. I think that really had some impressive showing this year. When you are planting into a perfect seedbed, that means a lot, even when I have an unfavorable forecast going forward,” he said.

While the early part of the growing season proved mostly favorable to the corn crop, after a cold, wet spell in late April and May, the later part has turned dry. How that dry spell might affect kernel depth and thus test weights remains to be seen.

“Pretty much all of August has been dry for most parts of northern Indiana. So, I am a little nervous. We have a lot of good ears, we have a lot of good pollination, but our kernel depth is a huge factor in our yield estimating and I feel like we are starting to cut back on that kernel depth that we could have had if we had kept the moisture rolling. I am still feeling optimistic, but I think we need to keep our expectations in check,” Harmon said.

Tar Spot

Disease pressure showed up in the form of tar spot, and Harmon said the spread of that could continue.

“We have had some significant disease incursions with tar spot pretty much all over northern Indiana. It is new to some areas. It is a disaster of a disease that we are combating well with fungicides, including Delaro Complete, but it still has a presence. When we get these foggy mornings, it could continue to spread,” he said.

One of the major concerns with tar spot is the impact not just on kernel depth, but on stalk quality and standability.

“It will cause the plant to shut down the factory, just like a drought would. We won’t be able to get the kernel depth we need and then you also run into stalk quality issues,” Harmon said.


When it comes to pest issues, corn rootworm concerns have made a comeback, but Harmon said the DEKALB SmartStax technology has been successful in controlling the corn pests.

“That technology has worked so well for us that it’s not been a huge issue. As you go west, you see more issues, but at the end of the day, SmartStax has worked well for us and growers are utilizing the VT DoublePRO above-ground protection,” he said.

Even with the success of the SmartStax technology, Harmon said the corn rootworm discussion still is one he has with growers.

“It still is going to be in our conversations. If you are in a corn on corn situation, you probably should think about utilizing SmartStax technology, just so you can keep those corn rootworms from causing any sort of root feeding and limitation on yield,” he said.

The SmartStax lineup will be amplified by the introduction of SmartStax PRO with RNAi technology, which has been approved for overseas export.

“That is bolstering the SmartStax technology by adding RNAi technology to what we already have with SmartStax. That is going to be great to have so we can help keep corn rootworm from being an issue because we are adding a third mode of action,” Harmon said.

SmartStax PRO with RNAi Technology is expected to be unveiled with a limited launch in 2022.

Right now, Harmon is having discussions with growers about finishing up 2021 and that includes planning harvest logistics to maximize every ear and kernel.

“That is always my biggest fear is when we get these wind events late in the season and we have some nice big ears on these plants that have been growing throughout this whole season and to watch them get to a place where they can’t make it into my corn head is a bad day. I always want to promote to growers to get out there and get after that corn crop at 24%. There are a lot of instances where we will capitalize, even though dryer costs are up this year, we will be able to capitalize on the yield that we would possibly lose to a wind event,” he said.

Harmon urges growers to do field checks for standability and stalk quality.

“That plant is a good mother and it will sacrifice its stalk to finish out if it doesn’t get the moisture to move nutrients into the plant itself. Those are the areas, the areas that became dry here late, that would be a good place to start scouting, just to check your stalk integrity,” he said.

Growers need to have those conversations now with their dealers and agronomists to prioritize which corn products need to go first in the harvest lineup and which can wait.

“We have some products where we definitely want to put them on the front side of the harvest window, but then we have products that do have great standability and stay green, where we can put them more toward the end and it will make a good harvest plan. We need to have those harvest logistics planned to make sure that every ear we have out there is going to make it onto our corn table and be brought in,” Harmon said.

This column was contributed by Indiana AgriNews for DEKALB.

Jeannine Otto

Jeannine Otto

Field Editor