Farm Progress

Heavy winds in late fall can take down corn as well.

Tom J Bechman 1, Editor, Indiana Prairie Farmer

January 24, 2018

3 Min Read
CLEAN AS A WHISTLE: When this cornstalk from a badly lodged part of the field was split open, there were no signs of stalk rot present.

One lesson from the 2017 Indiana Prairie Farmer and Purdue University corn trial at the Throckmorton ag research center near Romney, Ind., had nothing to do with the original purpose of the trial. It had everything to do with weather conditions.

The replicated plot consisting of two hybrids at five seeding rates was an attempt to determine the most economical seeding rate for each hybrid for 2017. Bob Nielsen, Purdue University Extension corn specialist, will decipher the results and present his conclusions soon.

Meanwhile, you don’t have to wait for results or see one shred of yield information to learn an important lesson. It’s simply this: While stalk rot often causes lodging, it’s not the only factor. Kevin Cavanaugh, director of research at the seed company Beck’s, says it pays to investigate when corn lodges rather than just assuming lodging was caused by stalk rot.

Stacked deck
The weather lined up against the 2017 Throckmorton trial. Continued rains and spotty drainage in the field resulted in planting on June 8. June 5 is the date when people usually become nervous about staying with corn, especially in northwest Indiana.

Cool weather favored the crop — especially cool nights in late August and early September, when this crop was filling kernels. The yield monitor was above 200 bushels per acre more than it was below it, corrected to 15.5% moisture.

The other catch, however, was that a wet late fall delayed harvesting the plot. Since it was planted late, moisture levels were higher than in other fields until late in the fall.

Harvest didn’t happen until Dec. 1. By then, several strong late-fall windstorms had taken their toll, especially on outside rows facing west. Even within the plot, there was considerable lodging.

Daniel Bechman, Beck’s product specialist, helped take stand counts on the morning before harvest. Karen Mitchell, Tippecanoe County Extension ag educator, helped as well. On the very last plot on the western side, where the corn was lodged the worst, Bechman decided to determine if stalk rot was involved.

Bechman pulled out a pocketknife and split a stalk lengthwise. He examined it closely, looking for discoloration and decaying pith inside the stalk. He also examined the outside of the stalk. Certain stalk rots produce black dots, which eventually grow together to produce a dark outer rind on the stalk.

He didn’t find any of these things in the stalk. He tried another stalk and found the same thing — the pith was still white and healthy, considering it was December. He concluded stalk rot, at least at that location, wasn’t a factor in lodging.

“Strong winds can knock corn over, especially when it has to stay in the field until late in the season,” Cavanaugh says. “You still always want to check for stalk rot to see if it was a factor.”

Even the outer strip that was laid nearly flat yielded 212 bushels per acre, partially thanks to a modern Case IH low-profile corn head.

Editor’s note: Daniel Bechman is the author’s son.

About the Author(s)

Tom J Bechman 1

Editor, Indiana Prairie Farmer

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