July marks the halfway point to the harvest finish line for many corn farmers. At this stage of the season, it’s a good time to evaluate fields for compromised plants that can reveal early season stressors that may have stymied ear development and, ultimately, yield potential.
Identifying the root cause of plant stress may lead to a critique of planter settings, the planting process and tillage practices. Spending time in the field now provides an opportunity to implement changes and improvements for the spring of 2023.
Maximizing corn yield potential requires even and consistent plant-to-plant development so that each plant has an equal opportunity for limited resources such as water, nutrients and light.
Plants that fall behind in development due to delayed emergence or early season stress are less able to utilize resources, which can lead to delayed and smaller ear development. Ear development delayed during silking and pollination may ultimately result in reduced kernel set.
During field evaluations, keep an eye out for plants that may be shorter than their peers and have lower ear placement and smaller-diameter stalks. If smaller, less robust corn plants are found, take some time to discover the cause.
Dig roots to evaluate the health status. Check planting depth, look to see if root growth was restricted horizontally or vertically, and look for evidence of root injury from diseases and insects.
Assess the soil surface for evidence of ponding water, excessive residue or an open seed slot. Lastly, compare spacing between plants as uneven spacing can accentuate inequities in growth.
The 2022 planting season posed many challenges to Indiana farmers. When evaluating cornfields pre-harvest, check for successful pollination by doing an ear shake test.
To do this, gently husk back the ear until nothing but the ear and silks are left. Shake the ear and allow the silks to fall away.
Silks that fall away represent successfully pollinated kernels, while silks that are still attached represent kernels that have failed to pollinate. Drought stress, silk clipping insects and heat stress are all things that can cause pollination to fail.
For more information about crop development and field evaluations, contact your local Channel Seedsman or refer to the Agronomy Library at Channel.com.
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