If you're content with your corn yields and simply can't handle one more potential problem to worry about, skip to the next item. But if you're bent on taking corn yields to the next level, read on. You'll learn about what may sound like a new problem to some, but has actually been around for a while. It's the corn nematode.
Wait a minute- isn't it soybeans that are affected by nematodes? Yes, but it's a different type- the soybean cyst nematode. They form nodes on soybean roots that can be seen with the eye. The nematodes that are thought to cause damage in corn can't be seen. It takes lab identification of soil samples to pinpoint a possible cause of less-than perfect performance in corn if nematodes are the culprit.
Soybean cyst nematodes are known for showing up in sandy areas. And while that's true of corn nematodes too, some reports indicate they're also causing problems in other areas where sand isn't as prevalent, especially west-central Indiana. "The incidents of nematode infection in corn are certainly increasing, especially in areas with sandy soils," says Dan Ritter, Extension ag educator with the Newton County Extension Service. He's also a certified crop advisor, and panelist for Crops Corner and Hoosier Bug Beat columns in Indiana Prairie Farmer for March, April and May. Those columns are produced with help from the Indiana Certified Crop Advisors group. Panelists rotate on a three-month basis to get differing views on important crop scouting topics.
"Seed treatments for corn nematodes will improve yield potential of hybrids in fields with damaging nematode populations," says Jesse Grogan of LG Seeds. He's based n Lafayette, and is also a CCA and current column panelist.
"Sting or needle nematodes can cause injury and heavy losses at low populations especially in soils with more than 70% sand," Grogan adds. "Often those fields are irrigated."
Nematodes can cause losses of 2 to 10 bushels per acre, and be difficult to detect, Grogan continues. The problem is serious enough that Purdue Extension educators in northwest Indiana will collaborate with Extension specialists to evaluate various treatments in on-farm trials this spring, adds Ritter.
Unfortunately, early spring sampling of soil doesn't correctly identify nematode pressure in that season, Grogan observes. Instead, he suggests sampling of soil in the summer when populations build to potential damaging levels. Information collected through such testing can be used to determine how to best manage crops in those fields in the future, Grogan concludes.