Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Dry Weather and Young Corn

Chad Lee and Jim Herbek, Extension Agronomists, University of Kentucky

A lot of corn is germinating and emerging across the state and these young seedlings find themselves in dry soil conditions. The Weekly Crop and Weather Report, released on April 30, 2012 documented that 56% of the corn crop had emerged. In addition, about 40% of the topsoil was short to very short on moisture.

Corn at the seedling stage does not require much water. Nebraska's Irrigation Management for Corn states that emerged seedlings (VE growth stage) use about 0.08 inches of water per day. Corn at the 4-leaf stage uses about 0.10 inches per day.

The upper six inches or so of the soil is where the critical water is being held for these young seedlings. Fields that received tillage (even the minimal "vertical till" systems) are drying out faster in the seeding depth area than fields that are in no-tillage. If we do not receive rain for an extended period, then the tilled fields are most likely to see water stress problems first.

Even if conditions get dry enough to hinder seedling growth, yield losses typically will not be more than 20% on water stress before tasseling, according to Arkansas' Corn Production Handbook.

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