If your answer to beating higher energy costs for grain drying this fall since corn moisture is higher than a year ago, you might want to walk your fields before you decide that's the smartest strategy. Reports continue to surface that especially in central and southeastern Indiana, ears are dropping- not just drooping, but falling on the ground. Each ear that falls is one less you get to harvest, in a year when good-sized ears are already hard to come by.
Personnel form the Shelby County Co-op, serving southern Indiana, Kentucky and parts of Ohio, note that LP demand picked up near the end of September as some farmers began harvesting at higher moisture contents than they normally would. When asked why they were starting to harvest even though the corn required considerable drying, they responded that ears were dropping off the plant, and they wanted to harvest while they could salvage as much of the corn crop as possible.
Dave Nanda, a crops consultant, Indianapolis, and director of genetics and technology for Seed Consultants, Inc., says in a field tour he took over the past few days, he quickly picked up premature ear drop as a problem in several areas. The condition is worse in certain hybrids compared to others. However, he says it's serious enough that farmers with corn fields they have not yet scouted well should take the time to check their fields, to make sure they aren't losing ears every day the crop stays in the field.
Nanda believes one of the primary reasons for the premature ear drop is the stressful conditions that occurred this summer. It may be a combination of very late planting, extreme heat and dry weather, he notes. The net effect is that the shank that holds the ear to the plant is weaker than it should be, especially in highly stressed areas and in certain hybrids.
The best remedy for this year is to scout and harvest those fields as quickly as possible, he notes. For the future he says it's worth asking about shank strengthen when you select hybrids. It is a trait that can be controlled at least partially through genetics. Hybrids vary in shank strength. While it's not an issue every year, it is worth considering, he concludes.