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Corn stalk quality could be an issue this harvest

Corn stalk quality could be an issue this harvest

Use the push test to assess corn stalk quality before combining.

It is a great time to get out in the field and see which corn hybrids are drying down. At this point in the game, it is a race to see which corn hybrids make it to black layer first.

Unfortunately, increased disease pressure this year is putting some corn hybrids ahead of schedule and making fall harvest come quicker than expected. Before you pull the combine into these fields, take a little of time to assess stalk quality.

Impact of stalk quality in fields

While taking that morning drive to double check which corn fields are “turning” the quickest and assessing which fields you will combine first, jump out of the cab to and inspect at corn stalks.

STALK STRESS: Stalk quality may be a problem during this year's harvest. Stress on plants creates weaker stalks. Farmers might want to consider harvesting early.

Ideal growing conditions this year and large amounts of rainfall have given our crops that boost to put everything into that corn ear. At times though we have seen stress in the month of July towards the beginning of August with some heat. With that corn plant focusing its energy on the ear, stalk quality of some hybrids may suffer.

Instead of shucking back corn ears and doing yield checks, evaluate overall plant health of your corn hybrids.

Time to take the push test

While walking your fields, a simple way to test overall plant health of your cornfields is doing the “Push Test.” This test will give you an overall view of the stalk quality of your corn in the field.

Pick three to five random hybrids scattered all across your field. While standing next to the corn plants, push the plant in the middle of the stalk. If it pushes back and forth, the quality of the plant is good overall.

On the other hand, if it snaps from the bottom, stalk rot is starting to set in the plant and take note this field needs to be a priority on beginning fields to be harvested.

Towards the bottom of the corn stalk, pinch the stalk right about the ground. Check to see if the stalk feels hallow towards the bottom. It could result in snapping during a windstorm.

Harvest early

Don't forget to evaluate corn ears as well. This year with the large early amounts of rainfall, we are seeing ears dropping early and corn plants firing quicker as we continue to scout fields.

Once the combine gets fired up and starting to roll in corn this year, take note on those fields that the stalk quality and overall plant health is not the best. Those fields may not be ready to harvest, but it might be a good idea to roll through them early. It's better to harvest corn early with a little moisture in those kernels rather than corn that is dry that laid down to an early windstorm that came through the area.

Harvest will soon be running full swing. Good luck with your upcoming harvest. Remember to check those cornfields for stalk quality.

Allen is owner of Allen Seed and Service where he scouts 3,500 acres of corn and 10,000 acres of soybeans annually. He writes from Hawk Point.

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