Ohio Farmer

Barren Stalks in a Corn Field Tell a Story

Crop Watch 2014: Let barren stalks talk to you so you can make adjustments for next year.

Tom Bechman, Editor, Indiana Prairie Farm

September 26, 2014

2 Min Read

So you find a barren stalk now and then in your corn field as you check the field to see if it's ready to harvest, or as you actually combine it. Should you worry about it? Is it a big deal?

That likely depends upon how many barren stalks you find, agronomists say. At any rate, you ought to take a few minutes to see how widespread it tis. You might also uncover clues as to why there are barren stalks.

Related: Top Three Things To Look For In Unharvested Corn


Too much stress leads to these barren stalks, Dave Nanda says. He is a consultant for Seed Consultants, Inc. While you may find fewer barren stalks this year than in some other years, there may have been stress in the micro-climate where the plant was growing.

Over population can cause stress and some barren plants, especially if the hybrid is not well suited to high populations. However, it's not the only way to get barren plants, Nanda says.

Some of it may go back to how well your planter performed. If two or even three seeds were dropped at the same time and wound up close together, one or more of the stalks may have succumbed to the pressure of having a neighbor too close to it. Instead of putting on an ear or even trying to set two ears as some plants are doing this year, it may have set none.

Related: Stalk With Three Ears Doesn't Tell the Whole Story

Another cause can be uneven emergence, Nanda says. The window for plants to emerge evenly is narrower than you might think.

If a plant emerges late enough behind its neighbor that it is one growth stage behind, it may wind up acting as a weed, sapping away nutrients instead of contributing to yield. It also could wind up producing either a small ear or no ear at all.

About the Author(s)

Tom Bechman

Editor, Indiana Prairie Farm, Indiana Prairie Farmer

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