Top Three Things To Look For In Unharvested Corn

Weak stalks, missing ears and tip back offer clues to how you can save more bushels this year and increase yields next year.

Published on: Oct 7, 2013

The next time rain stops the combines, take a walk through an unharvested cornfield, suggests Adam Spelhaug, agronomist, Peterson Farms Seed, Harwood.

The top three things you can look for:

•Weak stalks. Push the stalks over 45 degrees and see if they spring back. If they don't, they might go down in a strong wind. You can also pinch the bottom of the stalk and feel if it is soft or hollow, and cut open stalks to inspect them. You might want to harvest fields with weak stalks before others. Weak stalks can be hybrid specific or can be caused by a shortage of fertilizer. If stalks are solid, but the plant still is prone to lodging, the problem may lie with the roots.

Adam Spelhaug checks stalk strength on corn.
Adam Spelhaug checks stalk strength on corn.

•Missing ears. Check to see if there are ears on every stalk. You'll want to determine why ears are missing. Late emerging stalks and skips and doubles in the row will cause barren stalks. Skips and doubles might be reduced by paying more attention to how the planter is set up, calibrated, maintained and operated. Planting too fast can increase the number of skips and doubles. Late emerging plants might also be caused by uneven planting depth. Planting speed and field preparation might be need to be tweaked.

•Tip back. How many kernels on the tip of the ear pollinated, but didn't fill? Plants that don't have enough fertilizer late in the season, or come under stress late in the year, will consume kernels that haven't pollinated. You might want to evaluate how much fertilizer you are applying and when you are applying it. Sidedressing additional nutrients might be needed.