2019 brought us many adverse environmental conditions:
We started with a challenging planting season. Continuous rain events caused most farmers to begin corn planting much later than normal. We also saw cooler temperatures well into May causing soils to stay below our planting temperatures targets.
Cloudy weather accompanied all the rain. Solar radiation was limited with all the clouds which had adverse effects on our plants.
Tillage and no-till programs were far from perfect. Ground was worked wet or no-till planted into wet ground which created compaction and sidewall smearing.
Most of our fertility programs were compromised. Many growers did not get the desired amount of fertility on the fields and what was put on may have been unavailable as nitrogen and sulfur ended up deep in the soil profile, out of reach from corn roots.
The first-choice chemical program either wasn’t applied or had to be changed because of the weather creating weedy fields.
When summer came most of the Western Corn Belt continued to receive plenty of rain which was a good short-term fix to the problems stated above. The corn that did get planted grew and looked good, covering up most of the problems we had created. Even though the plants were put under an extreme amount of stress, they did everything they could to produce an ear. The ability to put on that ear may come with a price though, the plant may have had to cannibalize itself to finish out that ear.
As we look to start combining corn, harvest plans need to be made based on field evaluations. Stalk and root rots are hard to predict as one field may develop a problem while the next does not. Similarly, certain parts of the field can be affected worse than others as well. Some hybrids are more resistant then others, but if the environment is right, rots can show up in every hybrid.
As the plant undergoes stress, photosynthesis slows down causing irregular growth patterns, irregular ear development of kernel abortion and ear tip back. Stress will also cause the sugar production to slow down during grain fill resulting in sugars being taken away from the roots, stalks and ear shanks.
Stalk and root lodging is caused by four major events:
Severe weather – high winds and heavy rain can cause stalks and roots to bend and break.
Insect feeding – insects can pierce the stalk and leaves to cause a weak point introducing disease.
Saturated soils – the excess amount of rain caused soils to remain saturated all year long and created shallow roots giving the plant less stability as it grew.
Stalk and root rots – the environment was a perfect storm to create many different types of stalk and root rots. Figure 1 is an example of a Fusarium crown rot while Figure 2 is an example of Fusarium stalk rot.
It is important growers create a plan of which corn fields to harvest first. Scouting should occur any time after pollination by walking into the field well past the end rows and choosing at least ten locations with different environments in that same field. Different environments can consist of soil types, hybrid changes, fertility zones, and slope of the ground. Evaluate plants by using the push test (stand next to the plant and extend your arm straight out) or the pinch test (pinch the plant in several locations from ground level to the ear) to identify stalk integrity.
If you find trouble spots, first identify how widespread the trouble spots are showing in the field and second prioritize the severity. As always, if you have any questions give your Hoegemeyer team a call.
It is that time of year to sit down and evaluate the agronomic practices we did in 2018. We ask ourselves many questions trying to learn what worked and what we could do better in 2019.
Did we apply enough nitrogen?
Am I applying enough fertility?
Did cover crops work?
AND of course, did my hybrids meet my expectations?
Demonstration plots can help growers evaluate hybrids over a wide range of soil types, weather patterns and tillage practices. I would consider the following traits when examining hybrid demonstration plots.
Diseases: 2018 was a great year to evaluate disease resistance. Diseases will start hitting the plant the hardest during the grain fill period causing serious yield reductions from leaf diseases, ear rots and stalk lodging problems. Photosynthesis is the fuel to supply the plant energy for grain fill and plant health. Leaf disease will limit the amount sunlight it can capture and limit yield. Walking plots and your own fields gives you an opportunity to compare the differences among hybrids to disease problems that have occurred in your area. The environment over the last 5 years has created in many regions a concern over late season plant health. This is also a great time to try a foliar fungicide and see how it improves plant health of certain hybrids. Look at a nice mix of hybrids and fungicides in your future hybrid selections.
Lodging: Every year is a good year to evaluating stalk strength scores in your area. Right prior to and during harvest is a good time to assess stalk and root lodging. Environmental conditions along with planting populations can affect stalk and root lodging. Once lodging is noticed pay attention to the timing of the incident and do some more evaluation to determine what caused the event. Early root lodging could be caused by rootworm activity. Later root lodging could be caused by disease or stress from drought, excess heat or excess water. Stalk lodging is general a cause of wind, drought, hail and could be from high populations. If any of these stresses occur on a regular basis in your area, refer to the stalk strength scores in the seed guide because they may give you an insight of performance.
Population: Higher and lower plant populations will affect standability and yield. Certain hybrids have more of a fixed ear type, this means that the plant needs and can be planted at higher populations to achieve the desired yield goal no matter what the environment is. Other plants are a flex type ear which enable the plant to determine yield based off environmental conditions. The better the environment the bigger the ear the plant will produce. These hybrids are generally planted at lower populations. Please make sure that population charts are followed and setting the correct population for the hybrid and field is important. Most plots are planted at the same population, this needs to be taken into consideration when evaluating the plot yield results. An example of this would be if a hybrid with a fixed ear type is planted in a low population plot then hybrids with a flex ear type may have an advantage.
At Hoegemeyer, we are proud of the in-house agronomy research that we provide to farmers to help educate their farming decisions. We continue our extensive work on corn population studies and test our current line-up along with new experimental hybrids coming down the pipeline to maximize your seed investment. Learn more about planting populations here.
Plant and Ear Height: The corn plant reaches its maximum height around tassel time. If you are prone to wind events, plots are a good tool to help make hybrid decisions. A tall plant with a high placed ear is more susceptible to stalk lodging. Also, if you have soil type variances in your fields, you will want to focus on hybrids that have a higher ear placement. Plant type does need to be considered in your decisions for such things as residue management, field variability and cropping preferences such as silage.
Yield Potential: Of course, YIELD is one of the first things that should be considered. When looking at yield make sure you look at more than one plot, make sure those plots have checks or are replicated to smooth out soil variability. Don’t always pick the plot winner! Consistency is the key, look for hybrids that seem to always be in the top 5 in many different plots. Make sure you match up appearances with results, the prettiest one doesn’t always win. Make sure to check on ear appearance. Does it have molds, how many kernels around, how much tip back is there and how many kernels on the ear? Just to name a few.
Contact your local Hoegemeyer dealer to help you evaluate test plots and pick the right seed for your acres.
The 2018 harvest had many challenges! One of the biggest challenges was an abundance of moisture. When there’s heavy precipitation in the fall, harvest can be challenging. Farmers need to consider how to get in the field to harvest, and if time allows, complete some fall tillage.
Soil compaction is a concern when operating implements on wet soils. Consider using these strategies to limit soil damage and help fields dry out in the spring for quicker planting.
How do we fix the ruts we made?
Many of us had to go against our better judgement in the wetter spots in our fields. If you have ruts in the field from harvest, your gut tells you to aggressively fill them in. Take step back and ask yourself, is this what’s best for my soil structure? Soil structure is your soil’s number one defense against future soil compaction, and tillage destroys structure.
To fill in your ruts and maintain your soil structure, use light tillage by running equipment at an angle. Use multiple passes if necessary. These areas will need time to recover and yield has the potential to be affected compared to the non-rutted areas.
Is deep tillage the answer for wet spots I couldn’t harvest?
Disking and vertical tillage I believe are the best options for introducing air into the soil. A light pass no deeper than 3” if the soil is wet will incorporate residue and help prepare the soil for next year. Vertical tillage fluffs up the remaining residue with shallow penetration and minimal movement of the soil. Clods are created from ripping wet soils too deep with a chisel plow of disk ripper. If you use these types of implements, shallow up the shanks and use narrower points to avoid creating clods.
Can I use tillage after frost?
There was research completed by Harold van Es and Robert Schindelbeck done in 1993 on tillage on slightly frozen ground. Here is what they found: Compared to no frost, they found when the frost layer was .5” to 1”:
The soil better supported the equipment’s weight when chisel-plowing to a depth of 8”.
The soil below the frost layer was drier and tilled easily.
Corn yields weren’t affected
Moisture infiltrated quicker in the tilled soil vs. a soil without tillage. This is due to the frozen plated of soil created with frost tillage, as these plates thawed, they quickly diminished.
Make sure you plan ahead for spring this fall, or what’s left of it. Tillage after the frost is very time sensitive and takes more horsepower.
2018 was another interesting year for the western corn belt. In most areas we started the planting season with normal to above normal soil moisture which brought along planting delays and acres that were prevented to plant. Then we proceeded into the growing season and the rain continued. We saw areas of flooding and drowned out crops. Rain accumulations during the growing season were 20%+ more than the total annual rain fall. The rain brought other weather concerns besides the saturated soils, the lack of sunlight. We also saw a period of time that added stress to young seedlings, much above normal temperatures in early June added a compounding affect to plants growing in saturated and possibly compacted soils.
The Disease Triangle
Environment – Mother nature created an idea environment for fungi, bacteria and many other pathogens to grow in parts of our footprint. Rain created water and high humidity. Early temperatures were hot and most of the growing season we had warm evenings. The saturated soils caused less mineralization of nutrients and leaching of nitrogen.
Pathogen – Every region has a host of pathogens sitting idle waiting for the perfect environment to have the opportunity to attack a host. Insect pressure and adverse weather help create entry points for the pathogen to enter the host. Some of the pathogens include bacteria, fungi, mycoplasmas, spiroplasmas and virus.
Host – The crop is the host for these pathogens and are stressed from the environment. Each hybrid and variety are susceptible and resistant to many pathogens. With the extreme weather in some regions even host with some degree of resistance contracted the pathogen because of the additional stress the host was put under.
Identifying 5 Most Common Ear Molds
Aspergillus Ear Rot
Most severe in drought conditions (especially during pollination and grain fill), extreme heat or where insects have damaged ears.
Diplodia Ear Rot
Initially appears at the base of the ear and works its way to the tip. Damage from insects such as WBCW and ECB often provides an entry point for infection. Diplodia is favored by wet weather during grain fill and is usually more severe in hybrids with upright ears and tight husks.
Fusarium Ear Rot
Usually infects individual kernels or groups of kernels scattered over the ear. Fusarium is most severe when hot, dry conditions occur during and after flowering. It produces a pinkish-white fungal growth on infected kernels, or sometimes a "starburst" pattern with white streaks radiating from where silks were attached.
Gibberella Ear Rot
Overwinters in corn residue, infecting ears through the silk. Gibberella ear rot is a result of the same fungus that causes stalk rot. It thrives in cool wet weather after silking and is a red- or pink-colored mold that usually starts at the tip of the ear. Gibberella mold is favored by a long, tight husk cover.
Penicillium Ear Rot
Powdery green or blue-green mold that develops, usually at the ear tip, as a result of mechanical or insect damage.
Be sure to scout your fields prior to harvest to determine if ear molds are present and which types. Contact your local Hoegemeyer product agronomist or dealer for questions on how to manage these molds.
First it was wet. Then it seemed like someone had hit the “off switch” for moisture during late July and early August. Now the rains have set in again making harvest look like it may be a long process this fall. Along with this wet weather we are experiencing comes the potential for certain stalk rots to develop. There are a few areas of the western corn belt where stalk rots have already begun to set in.
There are two main culprits I have seen this growing season including Fusarium verticilliodes and Anthracnose stalk rot and top dieback. Fusarium is most commonly seen when we have dry conditions early and normal precipitation later in the growing season. Symptoms are a white color on the stem around the node, decayed pith tissue inside the stem while the vascular bundles stay intact, and a pink to salmon color inside the stem. The second pathogen I have seen above average incidence of is Anthracnose.
The pathogen that causes Anthracnose infects in two ways. The first is anthracnose top dieback, and this form typically doesn’t have a major impact on yield. Anthracnose stalk rot on the other hand can cause significant yield loss. Symptoms of this phase include black discoloration under the leaf sheath on the stems and a brown discoloration at the nodes. This will lead to lodging later in harvest.
So how do I know which fields are affected? First check both the stalk strength and anthracnose ratings in your Hoegemeyer seed guide. Checking all fields would be best, but if time is of concern start with fields that have lower ratings in the seed guide.
To test stalk strength this time of year we can do a simple push test.
Stand next to a corn plant and put your arm from your hand to your elbow parallel to the plant.
Simple extend your arm out and see if the plant breaks off below the ear or is the plant able to continue standing.
This should be done in five different areas of the field, 20 plants at a time. If you have 10 to 15 plants that break you may want to harvest that field first.
If you have any questions, feel free to contact your local Hoegemeyer agronomist or dealer. We will be happy to answer any questions.