COLUMBUS, Ohio -- If the state of Ohio's corn crop stays on track with the U.S. Department of Agriculture's predictions, then farmers could be looking at a record yield.
"The prognosis for corn looks good," said Peter Thomison, an Ohio State University Extension agronomist. "It's still a mixed bag in some areas of the state, but overall, the weather has cooperated and we have surprisingly been absent of serious disease problems."
According to the Ohio Agricultural Statistics Service, Ohio's corn crop is over 90 percent in fair to excellent condition. Average corn yield is projected at 160 bushels per acre, up 17 bushels per acre from last year. If realized, this would surpass the state record of 158 bushels, recorded in 2004.
Despite the overall good condition of the corn crop, Thomison said that problem areas exist in some parts of the state, especially where little or no rain has hurt the crop.
"There are significant acres in some areas that are stressed or are beginning to die prematurely due to lack of rain," said Thomison, who also holds a partial research appointment with the Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center. "Growers really need to be cognizant of stalk quality issues and the increased risk for stalk lodging with this stressed corn. Get out into the field and pinch the stalks to see which fields need to be taken off first. You don't want to leave corn with potential stalk quality problems in the field any longer than you have to."
One of the most visible indicators of stress is "firing" of the plants -- a condition where the leaves at the base of the plants turn yellow.
"Yellowing is an indication of nitrogen stress. The soil is so dry that plants can't take up adequate nitrogen. They also begin to cannibalize the sugars in the lower stalk to fill the kernels in the ears," said Thomison. "As a result, the stalks of some hybrids may lose their viability and integrity and can easily be pushed over by winds or heavy storms."
Thomison said that much of the state's corn is heading into maturity. Any rains at this late stage of development are not likely to impact yields greatly. However, rains could help mitigate some potential stalk quality problems.
"If we get rain, some of the late-maturing hybrids might recover. But if the corn plant has reached 'black layer' or what's also referred to as physiological maturity, the kernel is no longer receiving sugar from the plant. Grain moisture has usually dropped to about 30 percent to 35 percent moisture and kernels are drying three-fourths to one percentage point per day," said Thomison.
Severely stressed corn unlikely to recover may be earmarked for silage, and in many cases, silage is already being harvested for that purpose. The USDA estimates that about 200,000 acres of Ohio corn will be harvested this year for silage.
For more information on Ohio's corn crop, log on to http://agcrops.osu.edu.