Stalks play a critical role in the development and maturation of a corn plant. Paying close attention to the health and integrity of this infrastructure system can pay off with more bushels in the bin.
Dustin Bowling, AgriGold’s Western Agronomy Manager, knows the first step to stalk health is selecting the right genetics. That’s why he and other members of the AgriGold team look for brown ear husks sitting on a healthy green plant when evaluating hybrid performance. “The more green, healthy tissue a plant has as the ear starts to dry down, the more nutrients and photosynthates can be delivered to each kernel,” Bowling said. “It’s a look we strive for because it pays off at harvest.”
This year, he believes hybrids with excellent vigor and wet feet tolerance will also shine. “Good examples of this would be our Field GX ‘F’ genetics, which are typically forgiving under extreme early-season wet conditions and can add a tremendous amount of yield late when sidedress nitrogen is applied,” Bowling explained.
Even without the AgriGold advantage, a corn crop can rally with the right monitoring and inputs. Here are three ways to keep stalks standing strong through harvest.
Scout for Integrity
Since major stalk diseases start showing up during grain fill, it’s important to scout for stalk quality at the growing point or crown of the plant 40-60 days after tasseling. For a clear view, split the lower end of the stalks all the way down to the root system. Healthy stalks and crowns are white and robust. If there is discoloration in the pith of the stalk, nodes or the crown, that usually means trouble.
“Focus on fields that have experienced weather extremes,” Bowling said. “Drastic changes from wet to dry or vice versa can induce enough stress to trigger disease onset. As you scout fields, rank the stalk quality and factor results into your harvest planning.”
Fix Fertility Issues Before Grain Fill
Due to the rushed nature of this season, many growers may experience side-wall compaction, which limits root development and inhibits nutrient uptake. Fixing major fertility deficiencies ahead of grain fill helps prevent stalk issues. Potassium and nitrogen are two nutrients Bowling says growers should focus on.
“Approximately 85% of the potassium used by a corn plant ends up in the stalk and foliage. It’s a major component for building the infrastructure of the plant’s internal systems,” Bowling explained. “Without enough potassium, plants will struggle to deliver other nutrients, like nitrogen, to the ear.”
If corn runs out of nitrogen during grain fill, it pulls from the stalk and creates major integrity issues. Evaluating nitrogen during rapid growth phases (V6 to VT) is crucial to maintaining plant health.
“Fixing nitrogen shortages is the most important way to avoid stalk issues later. Watch for yellow lower leaves, an early sign of nitrogen deficiency,” Bowling said.
Apply Fungicides After Tasseling
Another preventative measure to protect stalk integrity Bowling recommends is the use of fungicides after tasseling. Most fungicides are not labeled for specific stalk diseases. However, by protecting the foliage of the plant, growers can experience better stalk quality and standability at harvest.
To schedule a meeting with your local AgriGold key account specialists and start boldly planning for 2020, visit agrigold.com/contact-us/.