March 03, 2024

Channel Field Check Up Series: Maximum corn yields require consistency

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 growing season has posed many challenges to Illinois farmers. When evaluating fields following pollination, check developing ears for silk detachment to determine how successful pollination was.

Silks that have not been fertilized by pollen will remain attached to their respective kernels. An abundance of silks remaining attached to kernels indicates stress during pollination, likely from drought stress, heat stress or insect feeding on silks.

For more information about crop development and field evaluations, contact your local Channel Seedsman or refer to the Agronomy Library at

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