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Don’t take your foot off the pedal

Peter Dazeley/Getty Images hand holding ear of corn
CHECK THOSE EARS: Corn looks good in many parts of the region right now. But get in your fields, peel open an ear and see what stage the corn’s in. This will help you to better track drydown and plan for harvest.
Pay attention to your maturing corn, and look at options if you’re short on forage.

As I was driving through Delaware and Maryland last week on my way to a crops conference in Princess Anne, Md., something really caught my eye.

Corn is really tall right now, especially in parts of Lancaster and Chester counties in southeast Pennsylvania. I often expect crops, especially corn, to be shorter along that Route 13 corridor through Delaware’s farm country. Those sandy soils can’t hold much moisture, and it can get really hot and dry in the summer there, hence the irrigation growers use.

But even down there, crops are looking pretty good. Corn is tall, although there are areas where the crop is struggling. Soybeans look great, too, for the most part.

I talked to a couple of growers at the conference, and they told me they’re pretty confident of some good yields this fall. That’s great news.

But as Jarrod Miller, agronomy specialist with University of Delaware Cooperative Extension, points out, don’t take your foot off the pedal yet, especially between corn dough and dent stages. This might not be relevant in most northern locations right now, but this is still good advice for tracking drydown and planning harvest. In any event, crack open some ears and see for yourself.

“At this point in the season, many fields may have started to show signs of dent, but this is a slow transition that sits between two reproductive stages. At the dough stage [R4], the milky fluid is drying down, giving the kernel a soft, dough like consistency,” Miller says. “As some of these kernels continue to dry and starch forms at the crown, a dent will form on the outer edge of the kernel. However, to be at the actual dent stage [R5], almost all of the kernels should have the dent feature.

Jarrod Millerdent stage

DENTING AND MILK LINE: Some corn has reached dent stage in parts of Delmarva, and the milk line is starting to appear.

“It is important to differentiate between dough and dent stages, where kernel development is still contributing to yield. Not until full maturity [R6, black layer] will your maximum yield be realized. At the dough stage, kernels will still have a dull, yellow color; the shelled cob is pink; and the kernels will have a pasty consistency. Some kernels will begin to show dent, but the dent stage starts when nearly all of the kernels are fully dented, a hard starch forms at the crown, and kernels will have the typical shiny, dark yellow color we expect of mature corn. For many hybrids, the cob may also be dark red at the dent stage.

“The milk line forms shortly after corn plants reach dent. The kernels mature toward the cob, and the dry starch line progresses inward. As you watch the milk line progress, keep soil moisture at adequate levels until the kernel has fully matured and black layer is present.”

black layer

BLACK LAYER: Not until black layer, R6, will your corn reach its full yield potential.

Short on feed?

In some parts of the region, especially New England, it’s been too wet to get hardly any cuttings of hay off the ground.

“Last year, we had a 100-year drought, 4 inches of rain from May 7 to Oct. 1. It was ruthless,” says Mike Kosinski, a Channel representative in western Massachusetts who recently talked to me for another story. “This year, we got 23 inches of rain in July. So, yeah, that’s the extremes we’ve hit here.”

With feed prices through the roof, this isn’t a good situation for dairy farmers to be in. Still, there are some options if you think you’re going to be short on feed.

Tom Kilcer of Advanced Ag Systems in Kinderhook, N.Y., points out that oats are still a good option if you can get them in the ground — more northern areas might be out of luck unless fall is warmer than usual — and they can provide a good source of protein.

“It will be incredibly high digestable forage, 17% to 20% crude protein,” Kilcer says.

If you can get through this fall and winter, get a good start on next season by planting forages as soon as you can this fall. Here are some links to stories written by Kilcer and others on getting late-season oats established and getting a good head start on winter forages:

Hope all this helps. Remember, it’s not how you start, but how you finish.

TAGS: Corn
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