Corn yield threatened
By Dean Shipley
With all this extremely hot and very dry summer, are farmers becoming increasingly anxious for the fate of their crops?
Spring came at the usual time, but warm weather arrived uncharacteristically early. The early warm start has accelerated everything.
So accelerated that in 30 years of farming Ben Yoder, said it is the first time he has seen corn tassel at the Fourth of July.
Whatever happened to “knee high at the Fourth of July?”
(That’s so early 20th century.)
With the corn wearing its “crown” early, Yoder thinks it will probably be OK.
“We’ll just have an early fall,” he said.
Yoder is more concerned about the affect the high heat and near-drought on the corn.
“I’m worried about the heat. It (corn) doesn’t pollinate in heat. When it’s dry, it’s hard on the pollination. It would be nice if it were cooler to pollinate.
Yoder said he and his brother, Peter Yoder plant a drought resistant variety of corn. Because of that the stalks stand better in dry weather “for a long time.”
However the stalks stand, if there’s no rain soon, the ears will suffer.
“If we don’t have rain, it won’t fill out the ears and that could be frustrating,” Yoder said.
Rainfall is down compared to 2011. Rainfall to date this year stands 19.29 inches according to information gathered from the National Weather Service in Wilmington. By comparison, last year was the wettest in history with rainfall rising to 54.96 inches for central Ohio.
Regarding soybeans, Yoder says from his viewpoint, “everything looks pretty good, all things considered.”
The plants don’t have blooms on them yet.
“But they do need to grow,” Yoder said. “There’s plenty of time to bloom and get big, if we get some rain.”
Mike Boerger, who farms in Pike County, said corn plants are in stress conditions. If, while driving down a country road lined by corn fields and the driver notices the leaves of the corn plants curled similar to a pineapple leaf, that’s a sign of stress. The stress is due to the heat and lack of moisture.
Because of a lack of moisture in the soil, Boerger said the corn plant can send its roots five to eight feet deep mining for moisture.
“It’s a bad time for this to happen,” Boerger said.
It’s pollination time. With corn plants in the tassel stage, Boerger said four days of moisture stress can reduce yields in a range of 10 to 25 percent. When the tassel tops the plant, the ear and the silk are not far behind. If that moisture stress continues through the silk emergence, farmers can be looking at a reduction of yield in a range of 40-50 percent.
“We’re losing yield right now,” Boerger said.
Boerger records moisture levels on his farm in Pike Township. He said in the months of April, May and June of 2012, rainfall in his farm has totaled 7.1 inches. In the month of May in 2011, Boerger recorded 7.3 inches of rain on his farm.
Soybeans have a little time yet. While a corn crop is “made” in July, the soybean crop is “made” in August.
While corn has a very brief window of time, about a week or so, to pollinate, soybeans can bloom from now until September, according to Boerger.
In the heat, the soybean plant may “abort” blooms, thus eliminating the chance for a pod to grow on a particular stem. But the plant will produce multiple blooms.
Boerger feels the soybean yield is “compromised some, but not to the extent of corn right now.”