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How Much Yield Hit Do You Take if Corn Dies Early?

When it dies is key to total impact on yield in the field.

Tom Bechman 1, Editor, Indiana Prairie Farm

August 15, 2010

2 Min Read

Fields that looked green and healthy two weeks ago are taking on a pale look with brownish leaves ion spots right now. One factor, seedsmen say, is that since growing degree days are running so far ahead, the corn is simply reaching maturity.

That's one scenario. If the scenario is that disease or other problems cause the crop to die prematurely, how much will yield be affected? The answers, or at least a guide to the answers, may lie in the 2010 edition of the Purdue University Corn & Soybean field guide.

Based on apst research, tables inside the guide estimate how much yield loss you can expect if plants die prematurely at different stages.

If black layer ahs occurred, then the plant is finished. While yield may not be what you expected because the plant didn't produce and put more starch into the kernels near the end of the season, there shouldn't be any yield loss from pre-mature death of plants, per se. However if the milk line is only half-way down in the kernels, on average, and leaves die, the loss is estimated at 6%. So 200 bushels is 188 bushels per acre.

If the entire plant dies at that stage, past research says the yield loss is closer to 12%. So now that potential 200 bushels per acre becomes 176 bushels per acre. Grain moisture is typically 40% for plants killed at half-milk line stage. When plants reach black layer maturity on their own, the estimated moisture is around 32%.

It's when leaves and/or plants die earlier that severe losses develop. It's more typical to think of those situations in an early frost situation. But for whatever reason, if corn is full dent but the milk line hasn't dropped and the leaves die, you could back yields back by 27%. Now you're talking under 150 bushels per acre if the original potential was 200 bushels per acre. And in the worst case scenario, where the entire plant dies with corn at full dent, yield loss is estimated at 41%. Suddenly you're struggling to get 120 bushels per acre. Corn will also have a ways to dry down, starting at about 55% if leaves die with corn in full dent.

Bottom line is that corn isn't made until it's in the bin.  

About the Author(s)

Tom Bechman 1

Editor, Indiana Prairie Farm

Tom Bechman is an important cog in the Farm Progress machinery. In addition to serving as editor of Indiana Prairie Farmer, Tom is nationally known for his coverage of Midwest agronomy, conservation, no-till farming, farm management, farm safety, high-tech farming and personal property tax relief. His byline appears monthly in many of the 18 state and regional farm magazines published by Farm Progress.

"I consider it my responsibility and opportunity as a farm magazine editor to supply useful information that will help today's farm families survive and thrive," the veteran editor says.

Tom graduated from Whiteland (Ind.) High School, earned his B.S. in animal science and agricultural education from Purdue University in 1975 and an M.S. in dairy nutrition two years later. He first joined the magazine as a field editor in 1981 after four years as a vocational agriculture teacher.

Tom enjoys interacting with farm families, university specialists and industry leaders, gathering and sifting through loads of information available in agriculture today. "Whenever I find a new idea or a new thought that could either improve someone's life or their income, I consider it a personal challenge to discover how to present it in the most useful form, " he says.

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