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Late-season scouting tips for corn

Corn Illustrated: This slideshow illustrates things to watch for as corn enters the home stretch.

“It’s not over until the fat lady sings.” That old saying, albeit politically incorrect today, perhaps applies more in 2019 than in any other year going back a long time. The growing season isn’t over until the first killing frost, and a lot of cornfields need every day they can get between now and then to mature and produce a reasonable crop.

Here are four categories of things to look for as this wacky season enters the final stretch. Dave Nanda, director of genetics for Seed Genetics-Direct, suggests scouting each cornfield for these and other factors until the season is over.

Diseases. There are three important types to watch for, Nanda says. Foliar diseases are often the gateway for stalk rots to gain a foothold. Also watch for ear rots and those stalk rots, especially as the season progresses. Even if all you can do is mark fields showing the most signs of disease for early harvest, the time scouting will be well spent, he notes.

Insect activity. In some areas, western bean cutworm could threaten corn late in the season. In non-GMO corn, be on the lookout for corn borers. By this point, second-generation borers may be at work inside stalks and ear shanks. That can lead to reduced yield and dropped ears.

Nutrient deficiencies. If nutrient deficiencies are going to exhibit symptoms, it will likely be late in the season. This could be the year when some spots in some fields run out of nitrogen. If nitrogen was lost last spring and early in the summer to saturation and excess rain, it could show up now.

Maturity. Look for formation of black layers at the tips of kernels, Nanda says. That signifies that corn has reached physiological maturity, However, corn may still be 32% to 35% moisture at that point. Part of the uncertainty this year, he notes, is not just whether corn will reach black layer safely, but if it will reach it soon enough to allow for some drydown. Otherwise, drying bills could be very high this fall.

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