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Small ears won't add to yield total very fast

Small ears won't add to yield total very fast
Indiana fields show stark contrast in yield estimates from 2014 to 2015.

In the interest of full disclosure, this picture actually came from a reasonably good field of corn where yield estimates range from 170 to 190 bushels per acre. Even in those fields, however, every ear is not a winner.

Related: What will grain quality be like this fall?

Whether this stalk came up late and was treated as a weed, or is too close to a neighbor is not clear. Dave Nanda, consultant for Seed Consultants, Inc., says sometimes things just go wrong.

Also, no matter whom you buy corn from, once in a while a rouge, or off-type, will end up in the bag. They don't always go to seed, although sometimes they do.

Nubbin ear: This was a rare find in this reasonably good corn field. It may be too common in some fields this fall.

This picture also shows how desperately a corn plant wants to make progeny. It doesn't know that you won't be planting hybrid seed again, Nanda notes. Its role in life is to make viable progeny and that's what it is trying to do.

On the flip side there are fields where this ear size may be all too common, Nanda notes. Areas impacted by ponding which didn't get enough nitrogen, either because it couldn't get it from the roots or because a sidedress application wasn't made, could end up with nubbins like this one.

In many areas of the state it's not hard to find fields which look like little nitrogen was applied. How many applications couldn't be made due to weather, and how many were fields where lots of nitrogen was lost, remain to be seen.

Related: Time to count ears and kernels and calculate yield

One thing is clear, Nanda notes. Not all the causes of small ears and poor yields will be due strictly to rainfall totals. Part of it will involve management factors, including amount of tile in field, whether soils were worked wet, planting date, soil fertility practices and weed control.

As in the drought of 2012, there will still be lessons to learn this year, he concludes.

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