COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Prolonged dry weather may turn out to be both a curse and a blessing for Ohio's developing corn crop.
Peter Thomison, an Ohio State University Extension agricultural economist, said that the dry soils from lack of rainfall throughout much of the state may cause uneven stands, but may also result in plants developing deeper roots to access moisture and nutrients, benefiting the crop as the season develops.
"One of the issues of corn development in dry soils is uneven emergence where the plants are developing at different rates. And in many fields, that is already happening," said Thomison, who also holds an Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center research appointment. "The result is the production of a small ear or no ear at all on late-emerging plants because of the competition between plants."
Thomison said that dry soils are also increasing problems with weed control, because pre-emergent herbicides are not working properly due to lack of moisture.
However, corn is in a better situation under dry conditions than it would be if developing in saturated soils.
"Dry conditions promote a deeper root system, instead of roots residing near the soil surface as they often do in saturated conditions. That has benefits later in the growing season," said Thomison. "If roots are shallow and we have a rapid transition to dry weather later in the growing season, plants suffer because they don't have roots deep enough to access moisture in the soil profile."
Overall, the corn crop is performing well despite below-average rainfall throughout the state. According to the Ohio Agricultural Statistics Service, over 70 percent of the corn crop is in good to excellent condition, despite the fact that less than 40 percent of the topsoil moisture is adequate.
Corn replanting is a consideration for some growers, whose plants failed to emerge either because of wet weather earlier in the season or current dry conditions. Corn planted as late as June 1 can produce favorable yields, as long as the plants receive adequate moisture throughout the growing season.
"The extent of the replanting situation hasn't gelled yet, and that's because this dry weather is making it hard for growers to judge what kind of stands they will ultimately see in their late-planted crops," said Thomison. "Growers should make that decision within the next few weeks, regardless of what direction the weather takes."
If replanting is not an option, the likely scenario is to shift from corn to soybeans.
For the latest updates on Ohio's corn crop, log on to Ohio State University's Agronomic Crops Team Web site at http://agcrops.osu.edu.