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Check corn fields now for stalk rot and prioritize harvest

Check corn fields now for stalk rot and prioritize harvest
Some corn fields have little stalk tissue left, while others are doing fine.

The stalk that Kiersten Wise split open and held in her hand for farmers at a field day in Shelby County to see looked nearly perfect. The pith was white and healthy. "There is no sign of stalk rot here," she relates.

Related: Stalk rot: Coming to a field near you

"I walked down the row and pushed hard, and everything snapped back. This field is in good shape right now."

All the stress this year makes people suspect that stalk rot may be a problem. And it will be in some places. But in this field on Ken Simpson's farm near Morristown, the hybrid should stand well, says Wise, a Purdue University Extension disease specialist.

Tough stalk: Here is a healthy stalk Kiersten Wise pulled from a field where she suspected stalk rot, but didn't find it. It is in some fields already, however. Check fields now.

She actually took the stalk from a nitrogen plot on Simpson's farm. He cooperates with Wise and fellow Purdue agronomists Bob Nielsen and Jim Camberato on field-scale plots to look at various management factors, including nitrogen rates, nitrogen application timing, and fungicide applications.

Wise pulled the stalk she displayed from a treatment which she thought might be most vulnerable to stress. "It certainly seems to be holding up well," she emphasized.

Not all fields are in good shape
That wasn't the case near the opposite end of the county when another farmer walked into a field just a few days earlier. More than 50% of the stalks that he pushed didn't snap back. Some broke off immediately. "It put everything it had into the ear, and there is nothing left of the stalks," he says.

Related: Harvest me first: Stalk rot

He is identifying every field which has that early-maturing hybrid, and plans to harvest it early. He's hoping that a local elevator will offer either a higher price or smaller discounts on moisture to get corn in and get their system tested and running well before harvest begins in earnest. The corn he checked is currently running at or below 20% moisture.

That's why it pays to check every field now, agronomists agree.

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