Corn growers grinning from ear to ear

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COLUMBUS – With the help of warm temperatures and plenty of moisture, Ohio’s corn crop is exhibiting exceptional growth and development.

Ahead of schedule. Peter Thomison, an Ohio State University Extension agronomist, said that the crop is well ahead of normal and experiencing virtually zero moisture stress.

If such development continues throughout the season, growers could be looking at another high-average yielding crop.

“The weather has been the biggest contributing factor to the rapid development of the crop,” said Thomison. “Corn planted in April and May is just going gangbusters.”

Thomison said that the corn is about two weeks ahead of normal. According to the Ohio Agricultural Statistics Service, 8 percent of the crop is already silking with plants in other fields rapidly approaching silk emergence.

Over 60 percent of the crop is listed in good to excellent condition.

Kernel development, or grain fill, has already begun in a small number of corn plants.

Silking stage. “We normally don’t expect corn to be shedding pollen and silking until the first week of July, but this year, the crop has been shedding and silking since the end of June,” said Thomison.

Across the country, corn has been silking ahead of normal. Nineteen percent of the nation’s crop has entered the silking stage, 10 percent higher than normal.

“Another thing that is extraordinary is that we have a lot of plants in these fields where the silking is occurring at the same time they are shedding pollen or even preceeding tasseling,” said Thomison.

“We normally see pollen shed maybe two to three days before silk emergence. This is an unusual growth and development pattern of the plants.”

Weather permitting. Thomison said that early silking and pollen shedding could be advantageous to the plants, but he did raise some concerns about a possible sudden change in weather.

“By having a lot of the silks available to receive pollen early means we should get pretty good kernel set in these fields,” said Thomison. “But if we go into a dry, hot period, we could have some ears with good kernel set that experience kernel abortion on the tips of the ears.”

Kernel abortion. Kernel abortion occurs when lack of adequate moisture results in the kernels in the lower portion of the ear using up available nutrients, leaving the upper kernels high and dry.

Thomison said that kernel abortion could have an impact on yields if it’s severe enough.

“Severe kernel abortion can easily shave 10 to 20 bushels off of a field,” he said. “Kernel abortion occurs to a certain extent every year, but it’s more pronounced when we experience protracted hot weather and no rain during grain fill.”

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