Thursday, September 1, 2011

Corn Stalks Getting Weaker

Chad Lee, Extension Agronomist, University of Kentucky

Perfect ear, but a strong storm knocked it to the ground.
The hot weather earlier this summer and the dry weather late have combined to weaken stalks across the Commonwealth. As corn plants tried to fill seeds, they had to pull resources from the stalks. That process weakened the stalks while adding more weight to the ear.

We have seen several thousand across in different areas of Kentucky with corn knocked down from strong winds. Producers need to weigh the decision of keeping the corn in the field to dry down or taking on the risk of more corn getting knocked down. Checking stalk strength can help with this decision.

Fields with weaker stalks and good ears are excellent candidates for early harvest. Fields with excellent ears but good stalks may be next in line followed by corn with poor ears, regardless of stalk position. Many operations are spread out where they have to harvest fields when their equipment is in that area.  They may not have the luxury to pick and choose fields. However, if there is a way to pick and choose, do it. The corn is just too valuable to allow it to deteriorate in the field.

A simple way to check stalk strength is to grab the corn at shoulder height. Push or pull the stalk about 18 inches off center and let go. If the stalks pops back upright, then stalk strength is still good. If the stalk stays bent over, then the stalk is weak. Repeat this method several times in a field and in several areas. Avoid the end rows and other spots in the field that might be high traffic.

Stalks falling over usually occurs at a bend or break in the internodes.
If you haven't done so already, go through your grain storage and drying options. With the weakened stalks, you might be drying a little more corn this year than last.

Perhaps the one blessing of this dry weather is that kernel drydown in the field will occur quickly. Even in a few fields where corn is laying flat, some drydown is occurring. However, the downed corn is at high risk for damage, disease and deterioration. Downed corn with good ears should be harvested sooner rather than later. Again, the corn crop is just too valuable this year to risk deterioration.

For more information about corn stalk strength, contact your county extension agent

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