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Weather Stressed Crops-Harvest Considerations

Sep 17, 2021

By: Jeff Blauwet, CFE Technical Agronomist

Most of our trade territory has experience significant stress during the growing season. Most of us have had significant drought stress for at least part of the season. Osceola, Dickenson counties, and areas to the east within CFE have had the worst drought stress and it lingered longer than areas to the west. Many growers further west have had rains to end the drought stress but have had hail damaged crops especially severe in the Larchwood area. All these conditions have led to stressed crops in various ways. Stressed crops will likely need special management. 

Drought stressed corn will most likely have standability concerns this fall. If a corn plant’s roots are unable to take up nutrients from the soil due to dry soil conditions, it will try to fill the grain it pollinated and so it will cannibalize the stalks. This will lead to loss of staygreen, and lodging will happen quickly if we get some wind (we always do—why we have wind farms here).  We are also seeing another unique phenomenon we have never seen before in some fields and that is corn that seems to be acting like a willow tree. It is leaning way over, it is still green, it isn’t root lodged, it isn’t kinked but it is NOT standing well. This corn will not likely stand back up and we suspect as it does dry it will finally kink over.  No one we have talked to has a great explanation for it, but I suspect it stems from a lack of potassium uptake as the plant was in that grand growth phase in June when we were all very dry. Potassium uptake is HUGE due the fact that potassium is an important part of building that stalk. We have never seen as much potassium deficiency symptoms on corn (even on SB) as we did this year. You will need to be very aware of how your fields are standing and be ready to harvest earlier and potentially at a higher moisture than normal. Many fields could be one storm away from being a mess unfortunately.

Hail damaged crops are also going to need special attention. Hail damage affects the crop’s ability to fill the grain it pollinated. In corn the leaves above the ear are what capture solar radiation and converts that energy to grain. If enough of the leave surface is removed the plant will not be able to adequately fill the ear, thus stalk cannibalization will happen. Again, be watching your corn fields and if they seem to be losing their staygreen rapidly, they will need an early harvest priority. 

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