COLUMBUS, Ohio – The high winds and heavy rains some parts of Ohio experienced last week with the remnants of Superstorm Sandy could cause stalk lodging and ear drop, leading to yield declines for corn and making a bad year even worse for many growers who’ve had losses because of the drought, an Ohio State University Extension expert said.
The concern is that the overly wet soils are impacting harvesting in some parts of the state that got the heavy rains, particularly in some areas of Ohio where as much as 70 percent of the corn hasn’t yet been harvested, said Peter Thomison, an OSU Extension agronomist.
And the heavy winds may have caused corn plants to blow over and break ears, he said.
“With this drought-stressed corn, the high winds could have a larger effect to result in more corn lodging,” Thomison said. “The rains were a big deal in many parts of the state, which is slowing harvest because combines can’t get into the fields.
“And the more time you wait to harvest, the more occurrences of dropped ears and natural lodging occur. In stress years like this, we can still see good yields but often more stalk lodging and ears on the ground.”
The loss of one "normal"-sized ear per 100 feet of row translates into a loss of more than one bushel per acre. And an average harvest loss of two kernels per square foot is about one bushel per acre, he said.
The problem is exacerbated as a result of drought stress that resulted in premature ear shank deterioration that promoted ear drop, Thomison said. In fact, a study conducted in 10 locations last year and in 2012 found no ear drop in 2011, but did find ear drop in one of the three hybrids at each testing location in 2012.
“To minimize the potential for ear drop losses, some seed companies are recommending farmers run their corn head as high as possible while adjusting ground and header speed for maximum ear retention,” Thomison said. “Operating the corn header higher than normal may reduce the loss of ears flying out the header during harvest.
“Fields exhibiting ear drop and stalk lodging should be harvested promptly.”