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Adequate moisture helps stave off heat damage, agronomist says

To the relief of what feels like every living thing, the heat wave has finally started to make its way east of the Corn Belt this week.

In the relief of temperatures in the 80s, corn and soybean growers can now look back on the recent extreme heat and humidity and what effects it had on row crops. While it wreaked havoc on those of the human species during the recent heat wave, Emerson D. Naziger, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign professor of agronomic extension says the effects were far different for the corn crop.

"Corn tolerates high temperatures very well, but there is a limit, of course. Work done in greenhouses has shown that even well-watered corn starts to deteriorate fairly quickly once temperatures rise above 115 degrees or so," Nafziger says. "But, temperatures between 100 and 105 will not do much of any damage if the crop has adequate water.

"When the crop has adequate water, it very likely functions at a higher rate at temperatures above 90 than at 86."

When it comes to relative humidity, Nafziger says while some problems can develop under more moisture-laden air, the overall effects are similarly light on corn plants.

"Because people suffer when the relative humidity is high, they often get the impression that plants must suffer under such conditions as well," he says. "Aside from the fact that higher relative humidity means that leaves remain wet from dew longer, which can encourage disease development, high relative humidity has little direct effect on plants."

To the relief of what feels like every living thing, the heat wave has finally started to make its way east of the Corn Belt this week.

Soybeans, on the other hand, possess a slightly weaker tolerance to heat extremes, Nafziger says. But, similar to corn, ample moisture can offset potential heat damage.

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