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College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences


Wise Management Eases Problems When Weather Holds Up Harvest

November 20, 2006

COLUMBUS, Ohio -- There may be little corn growers can do now to speed up harvest or alleviate lodging problems, but they can take steps next growing season to potentially avoid problems associated with cool, wet fall weather.

Peter Thomison, an Ohio State University Extension agronomist, said that the cool temperatures and continuous rainfall Ohio has experienced the past month is unusual. The month of October has gone on record as the second wettest in 124 years. The weather has delayed crop harvest and caused subsequent quality problems and yield reductions.

"Growers have to realize that these unusual weather conditions do happen periodically, and when they do happen, the crops can be significantly impacted," said Thomison, who also holds a partial research appointment with the Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center.

From delayed harvest, to stalk and root lodging, to slow-drying corn, unsuitable and uncontrollable weather conditions cause nothing but headaches for growers. But they can potentially avoid such problems by making wise management decisions before planting next season.

Here are some suggested tips for growers:

• Plant early. "Planting early and getting most of the corn planted by the first week of May is the No. 1 step we recommend growers follow to avoid these types of problems," said Thomison.

• Select hybrids that exhibit resistance to lodging. "If growers rely on field drying, the major criterion for hybrid selection is probably stalk quality," said Thomison. "Growers should focus on stalk and root lodging when assessing hybrids for planting."

• Identify hybrids that dry down well. "As growers position their hybrids, if they want to avoid artificial drying, they should identify hybrids that dry down rapidly," said Thomison. "Much of the corn still in the field this year is below 20 percent despite the wet weather, and that's a testament to the hybrids we have that exhibit that characteristic."

• Consider planting more early maturing varieties. "By planting more early maturing hybrids that are 105-day or 109-day, rather than 111-day to 114-day hybrids, growers could avoid some of these problems associated with delayed harvest," said Thomison. "There are perceptions that early maturing varieties don't have the same yield punch and same stalk quality as late-maturing varieties, and that's not true. Using a range of hybrid maturities also reduces risks from environmental problems and certain pest problems."

• At the very least, avoid exclusively planting late-season hybrids. "We encourage growers to spread the maturity of their hybrids," said Thomison. "It's best to match the maturity and stalk quality characteristics of the hybrid to the field situation (that is, will it be harvested early or later in the season)."

Candace Pollock
Peter Thomison