The farmer who planted the field we visited this week planted the same seed across the entire field. It's leading, high-yielding genetics. Yet if you look at the ears in the picture, from a very great ear with 18 rows and 40 kernels per row to one with maybe 10 kernels on the entire ear, you have to wonder how two plants could start out with the same genetics and wind up with such different results.
It's all about micro-climate, says Dave Nanda, plant breeder and director of genetics and technology for Seed Consultants, Inc. Nanda has spread the message for years now that micro-climate- the factors of the environment around each individual plant, can make a huge difference in the outcome. This year and this example are positive proof that his theory appears to be correct.
You could find these same ears on one single row across the field. That's because the soil type changes from a very dark, poorly drained soil to an eroded clay soil to an eroded soil underlain with sand and gravel. The biggest difference this time around was that the plants in the black ground had enough moisture to allow the plant to put out a tassel and spread pollen at the same time that it put out a shoot and silks, while the other plants did not.
The plants in the dark ground are twice the height of those on the soil underlain by gravel. However, the plants on the clay hills are just as tall as the ones in the black ground. Their roots couldn't find moisture reserves, apparently, and perhaps a day's difference in timing of pollination, with temperatures varying from the 90s to above 100 degrees, made the difference in whether plants of the same size produces virtually no ear or an ear with a few kernels, or whether it produced a good ear.
If the farmer combines the entire field, the threshing portion will be quiet for long stretches, then move into reasonably decent corn. That pattern may repeat itself across a good portion of Indiana this fall.