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Traits, fungicides give late-planted corn more of a chance

Agriculture.com Staff 05/26/2010 @ 10:36am

This week's USDA’s 71% good to excellent rating shows the U.S. corn crop is off to a great start.

Still, there are some areas -- such as parts of North and South Dakota -- where soggy soils have stymied corn planting. In areas like northeastern South Dakota, some corn farmers haven't turned a wheel.

There's still hope, though, for late-planted corn fields.

"It used to be in the Midwest that planting in the last week of May and the first week of June was unheard of," says Mike Kavanaugh, AgriGold agronomy manager. “But traits have expanded the planting window for corn."

Kavanaugh and other AgriGold staffers note soggy conditions prevented a number of central Corn Belt farmers from planting corn into the last week of May and first week of June in 2009.

The outcome? The second-highest U.S. corn crop on record -- 13,110,062 billion bushels.

"It used to be that (European) corn borer would take 20 to 30 bushels (per acre) right off that top," says John Kermicle, AgriGold general manager. "With traits, that pest is no longer a factor."

Ditto for corn rootworm resistant traits and fungicides that can curb late-season foliar diseases. "They can give you more bang for the buck into August when you are trying to fill grain," Kermicle says.

If the soil is fit to plant, you're still better off planting at normal recommended planting times. Delayed planting means you'll likely have to shorten hybrid relative maturity, which clips yield potential compared to longer relative maturities.

Bear in mind that average fall frost dates also haven't changed. That means you're dependent on corn accessing sufficient heat units during the summer to beat fall frost.

"You had better be able to get to black layer by the first frost date," says Kermicle. "That's one thing that hasn't moved."

Last fall, northern Corn Belt farmers forced into late planting due to prolific precipitation weren't as lucky as farmers more to the south. The AgriGold officials noted north of Interstate 80 in Wisconsin, white frost-killed corn fields were abundant in 2009 following the area's first frost.

Upshot: Late-planted corn stands a better chance of making it than it used to. But it still takes a backseat to timely planting. "Any time you are short of heat units, it is a challenge," says Kermicle.

This week's USDA’s 71% good to excellent rating shows the U.S. corn crop is off to a great start.

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