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Crop Watch Turns Into Drought Monitor

Crop Watch Turns Into Drought Monitor

Yield potential slipping fast in this corn field.

You almost know what a field is going to look like before you go check it if you have enough data. Such was the case for the Crop Watch '12 field, and the result wasn't pretty. The last rain that fell there according to MyRainScout.com was on May 30 (through July 7). Only about two-thirds of an inch has been received in that field since it emerged.

Last week Dave Nanda, a plant breeder and director of genetics and technology for Seed Consultants, Inc. scouted the field and found it free of major problems. He said the yield potential was still on target for 200 bushels per acre.

Mostly pollinated- This ear on one of the outside 24 rows is 80% pollinated, since the silks fell off. However, it only has about 35 possible kernels, assuming none abort.

That was before nearly two weeks of 90 and 100 degree temperatures, with the crop tasseling and trying to pollinate. Bob Nielsen, Purdue University Extension corn specialist, says that when corn is pollinating under extreme drought stress, it can lose at least 10% overall yield potential per day. String a week of those together and you've dropped your yield potential pretty quickly.

Believe it or not, this field was probably the best seen within a 10 mile area, but that's not saying much. Nearly every field is struggling.

The problem with sizing up the Crop Watch '12 field is that it is a tale of two fields. The first 24 rows on the outside, and some patches further in, were seven feet tall and in full pollination. The ear shake test showed that about three-fourths of the length of the relatively short ear was pollinated.

Disaster in the making?- Too much of the field looks like this. Notice tassels and pollen but few, if any, shoots, let alone silks. This is a common reaction to extreme drought and heat stress.

However, the rest of the corn plants were barely four feet high, pollinating with pollen visible, but without a shoot in sight, let alone a silk. That's the case in man y fields in central and the southern half of Indiana, reports indicate. Nielsen says the window for corn once it starts to pollinate is about a week. If it cools off this week, it may help. But the question will be is the damage already done to fields that went deep into tasseling and shedding pollen during the previous two devastating weeks.

Time will tell. Seed Consultants, Inc., will still sponsor a seed giveaway. Look for an entry blank here after August 1, and in the September issue. By then we should be able to provide a much clearer picture of what's going on in the field.

This isn't the report we intended to field in the second week of July, but many of you know by looking at your own fields that 'it is what it is.'

TAGS: Extension
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