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An ear full (of corn)

CHICAGO, Illinois ( August approaches, U.S. farmers and their crop consultants turn their attention from corn's pollinating development stage to how well the corn kernels grow on the cob.

The U.S. corn and soybean crops suffered setbacks in this week's crop condition report. Some believe the extreme Midwest July heat has robbed the crop of its 'top' yielding potential. This is raising concern about how the next growth stage, 'ear-fill', will occur in the coming weeks.

Crop Talk Marketing Talk member Mike M said this week that missed rains could keep his north-central Iowa ear kernels smaller than hoped. "We missed last weekend's rain. Not a tragedy, but a good inch around here would make everyone happy. Without good moisture, the ears will fill but they will be on the light side," Mike M says.

Norm Larson, a northern Illinois licensed crop consultant, says this month's rapidly developing sweet-corn causes concern for the field corn entering its ear-fill production stage.

"If you take a look at your sweet corn that you are getting from your local farm market, right now, what you will find is that the sweet corn, with the extreme heat, has come on so fast that the kernels are shallow and the ears are really starchy."

To avoid this happening to the field corn, warmth is needed, but not extreme heat.

"We need bright, sunny days, not too hot of temperatures for a good ear-fill stage," Larson says. "If August is really hot, that won't  be good for producing good test-weighted corn."

In his region, adequate rains have helped the corn get through pollination, Larson says. Now, farmers are starting to pullback ears and see how the pollination stage went. Following field checks, farmers are better able to gauge what it's going to take to get corn through the critical stage of ear-fill.

After checking a few local fields, it appears pollination went well in northern Illinois, Larson says.

"I saw a few ears in fields that didn't pollinate. But, that was just in a few fields and it was random. For the next few weeks, it's important that farmers pull the ears back, check to see if the silks connected to those kernels. After that, you can start gauging what it's going to take to get the right amount of sugars and starches to grow that ear."

Billion-Dollar Rains

Dave Mowers, Agricultural Information Management (AIM) for the Heartland Inc. crop consultant, says last weekend's rain absolutely resurrected the corn crop in central Illinois. "When considering how widespread the rain was, that rain was a billion dollar rain for the Corn Belt."

Unlike poor pollination seasons in 1983 and 1988, when extreme heat cut yields, this year's extreme heat has been followed by favorable moisture, Mowers says. "From my vantage point, most of the corn pollinated effectively and the area corn is now filling kernels while in the 'blister-to-milk' stages."

Having said that, this corn crop is not made just yet, he says. "We still face hot nights that cause excessive respiration, burn up the stock's energy and ultimately takes away from ear-fill potency," Mowers says.

Ohio Corn Challenges


In parts of Ohio, rain delayed corn planting until the first week of June, creating a situation where the corn crop is in a lot of different growth and development stages.

Curtis Young, Ohio State University Extension agronomist, says some fields have not yet reached the tassle stage, some fields are in the middle of pollination, and very few are in the grain-fill period.

"Because our corn was planted late and has since been dry, the kernel sizes will be smaller than average and test weights could ultimately be lighter," Young says.

Meanwhile, there are other fields that need a long Indian summer to even have a possibility at grain-filling before frost sets in and kills the plants, Young says.

Going forward, the Ohio corn crop will need adequate rain.

"The $64,000 question is how much rain will we get in August," Young says. "Unfortunately, August tends to be a relatively dry month for us. There could be some real challenges in the near future for our corn's development."

Recent rains were spotty in northwest Ohio. However, the central part of Ohio is dealing with flooding conditions.

Meanwhile, across the state line, into Indiana, the weather is elevating farmers' anxiety on ear-fill growth. "Corn crop here in WCIN is starting to show signs of the affects of the heat and very little rain. No rain this week. As most know in this part of the country, it never rains in Aug," ihmarty543282 posted on's Marketing Talk Tuesday.



The month of August is considered the most important for soybean production. With the crop entering a stage of production where pods are being established and filling, farmers are trying to decide if a fungicide application is needed, Larson says.

Due to this year's extreme heat, disease pressure is low in northern Illinois.

In August, adequate moisture will be needed for Ohio's soybean crop, Young says.

For Ohio, the soybeans were planted late and since have been limited on rain. Therefore, a lot of soybeans are short in size. But the crop is growing continuously.

"Neither corn nor soybeans are looking overly optimistic right now," Young says.

For Illinois, the recent rains may have benefited the soybeans as much as the corn crop, Mowers says. "We enter the pod-setting stage in good shape. We have the scenario for a tremendous bean crop this year, I think."

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