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Corn, soybeans struggling in MissouriCorn, soybeans struggling in Missouri

Corn pollination problems and harvest concerns top an agronomist’s list for the 2023 growing season.

Mindy Ward

July 19, 2023

3 Min Read
Two photos collaged together a close up of corn crop on one side and a close up of a soybean crop on the other side
HOLDING ON TO HOPE: Corn and soybean farmers across Missouri continue to wait for rain to improve crop conditions. Last year at this time, 50% of the state’s corn crop and 44% of soybeans were rated “good” by USDA. This year, those percentages were cut in half. Mindy Ward

When only 23% of Missouri’s corn and soybean crops are rated “good” by USDA, it may be an indicator of a less-than-abundant statewide bounty this fall.

While there are still days left in the growing season, row crops are struggling. “Crop conditions for the most part are very rainfall dependent,” says Joe Harris, Dekalb/Asgrow technical agronomist. “Where we've gotten rain in the last two weeks, it has made a substantial difference in the way the corn looks. In those areas, it looks really good. But some areas are missing all of this moisture, and crops are stressed.”

Missouri Ruralist sat down with Harris to check in on midseason corn and soybean crop status across the state.

Crop conditions for corn

Here are some observations Harris has about corn in Missouri:

Early-planted corn fares better. This group had more water reserve to start and pulled out subsoil moisture. “The later-planted has struggled since day one,” Harris adds. “It never really had a chance to get its roots down to any moisture.”

Pollination is hit or miss. Corn is pollinating basically across the state right now. There are spots that received rain where it is pollinating the whole ear. In other areas without rain, Harris says, “It doesn't look like it's going to be good at all, maybe 20% to 30% pollination.”

Disease is a concern. Tar spot is showing up in places, mostly in irrigated area where the moisture and the environment were in place for it. “But the forecast with wet and cooler temperatures, and high humidity, is kind of perfect breeding grounds for tar spot,” Harris explains. “It could really blow up on us if we're not careful.” He recommends spraying a fungicide, such as Delaro Complete, on areas with good yield potential. “More important than anything this year, for the plant health aspect,” he says. “Anything we can do to alleviate some of the stress is going to help us get to the end goal of a corn crop that is still standing.”

Scout fields throughout the growing season into grain fill. Rapid grain filling occurs from R2 (blister) to late R5 (full dent). Examine the ear leaf and leaves above and below the ear at several locations throughout a field. If disease is present above the ear leaf on most of the leaves, a fungicide application may be necessary.

Problems for harvest. With corn plants enduring so much this growing season, Harris is concerned for what harvest will look like. “It scares me a little bit because I think we could see some potential stalk cannibalization. And we could have a lot of corn go down,” he says. “I hope we are not talking to farmers using corn reels this fall.”

Be proactive. Farmers should pay attention to warning signs. “If we start to see some firing in the plant, we've got to be proactive to do something to try to keep that plant alive if we can,” Harris adds. That may include spraying a fungicide simply to extend the plant health. If you’re not spraying, if it may come down to chopping it for silage. Harris warns to watch nitrate levels and the potential for toxicity in that corn plant. Test before feeding.

Focus on soybean success

Here are some observations Harris has about soybeans in Missouri:

Yield potential optimism. “We kind of play the long game with them,” Harris explains. “We can still catch some rains in August and September and raise a pretty decent soybean crop.”

Herbicide injury. Harris has seen a Group 15 herbicide response in soybean fields. “Where we didn't have the moisture and the plant couldn't metabolize that herbicide, it's showing up in that heart-shaped leaf farmers are seeing.”

Disease pressure. In our current weather conditions, phytophthora and rhizoctonia usually doesn't show up. But stress can be a trigger for it, Harris notes. “We've seen some dieback on some beans from that this season.”

Pests and disease in the field. While the heat is keeping many pests at bay, a few are in fields.

“If you are going to make a fungicide pass on your bean acres, go ahead and add an insecticide,” Harris advises. “That will clean up the pests that are lingering.”

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About the Author(s)

Mindy Ward

Editor, Missouri Ruralist

Mindy resides on a small farm just outside of Holstein, Mo, about 80 miles southwest of St. Louis.

After graduating from the University of Missouri-Columbia with a bachelor’s degree in agricultural journalism, she worked briefly at a public relations firm in Kansas City. Her husband’s career led the couple north to Minnesota.

There, she reported on large-scale production of corn, soybeans, sugar beets, and dairy, as well as, biofuels for The Land. After 10 years, the couple returned to Missouri and she began covering agriculture in the Show-Me State.

“In all my 15 years of writing about agriculture, I have found some of the most progressive thinkers are farmers,” she says. “They are constantly searching for ways to do more with less, improve their land and leave their legacy to the next generation.”

Mindy and her husband, Stacy, together with their daughters, Elisa and Cassidy, operate Showtime Farms in southern Warren County. The family spends a great deal of time caring for and showing Dorset, Oxford and crossbred sheep.

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