5 problems that hold back corn early


The 2018 season has featured another cool and wet early spring, with snow thrown in to remind anybody who thought about planting super early that Mother Nature is always in control. Agronomists say you can expect some of the same problems seen in other recent cool and/or wet springs.

Every year is different, however. Sooner or later, 2018 will take on a mind of its own. The Corn Watch ’18 project will help you identify problems you might see in your fields by monitoring what’s happening in one field in the central part of the eastern Corn Belt. Dave Nanda, an independent agronomist from Indianapolis, will help provide observations. The project is sponsored by Seed Genetics-Direct, Washington Court House, Ohio.

Here are five problems to watch for in corn early in the season:

1. Slow-growing, yellow plants. Until soils warm up, corn plants won’t green up and take off, Nanda says. In unseasonably chilly periods, use a soil thermometer to check soil temperature. That may shed light on why corn plants are slow to take off. Warm, sunny days will be the best remedy.

2. Twisting and unusual growth patterns. When plants are slow to emerge, sometimes they twist or develop other unusual characteristics, Nanda says. Possible causes are weather or crusted soils. Interactions with chemicals such as herbicides can also cause problems.

3. Wireworm feeding. Cut plants indicate wireworm problems. You won’t see this every year or in every field, but when wireworms show up, it’s not a good day! There is no remedy once they are damaging a field, Nanda says. Wireworms typically damage corn plants in low areas, often where manure or a high-organic-matter crop has been involved. They can thin stands significantly in spots ranging from a few feet to several acres. Again, the remedy is warm weather, which drives the pest deeper into the soil.

4. Mechanical damage. Some plants damaged by human error — typically from running too close to the row — may recover; others may not. If you don’t discover these injured plants by scouting early in the season, you may wonder at harvest why plants are missing in certain parts of rows.

5. Inconsistent planter performance. If you scout soon after corn emerges, it’s easier to pick up patterns within the stand, Nanda says. One pattern may be inconsistent plant spacing in one or more rows compared to the rest. Perhaps there are skips, doubles or both. In that case, it’s likely time to check the planter and see why one row wasn’t functioning properly.


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