Animal damage and bird feeding on tips, plus insect damage – sometimes set up because birds open up ears – happens every year to some degree. It goes with the territory. This year they may be worth considering when you're deciding whether to let corn dry through October or prepare to harvest it earlier, and dry it instead.
Some of you won't face this decision until the end of September because Bob Nielsen, Purdue University Extension corn specialist, says many fields likely won't black layer until then. If you planted corn earlier, you may have more options and an opportunity to harvest earlier.
Scouting a field recently, we were surprised at three things. First, there was considerable damage in the end rows. Stalks were knocked down after pollination. Ears were already formed. From the vantage point of an ATV seat, in some places it appeared as if it could be two-legged damage, but there were no clear entry or exit points and the damage was random. At other points it seemed a better fit for deer damage.
The field was sprayed with fungicide with ground equipment, so it could also be from that very late trip in the field. Whatever the cause, it will detract from end row yield, which is lower than field yield, at least in our checks, anyway.
Second, there was more bird feeding on the tips of ears than expected. It wasn't rampant, but it wasn't hard to find either. Some of it went fairly deep into the ear because tip kernels had aborted, meaning birds had to dig deeper to find good kernels to feed on.
Third, there was some insect damage, especially on the ears where birds had apparently opened the husks at the top and left the ear wide open for insects to party down. While not evident yet in these ears, open feeding wounds or insect damage mean the ears will be good candidates for ear rots later, since the fungi have an entry point to get a foothold on the plant.