2020 has been another year for the history books and most certainly a tale of two crops across the corn belt. Over 50 percent of the corn crop was planted by May 3. However, it took until the end of May to reach 93 percent planted. AgriGold Agronomy Manager Mike Kavanaugh has noticed several threats and opportunities that are emerging for both early and late planting windows.
EARLY PLANTED CORN FIELDS
Most years, the earliest planted corn has the greatest opportunities. Many growers put April seed in the ground this year, knowing that it would take weeks to accumulate 125 GDUs for emergence. In most cases, the April forecast was for cool and dry soils, not cool and wet.
“That’s why growers pulled the trigger and planted,” Kavanaugh said. “It was literally like putting corn in the freezer. It wasn’t a perfect scenario to get the perfect picket fence stand. However, it was a major opportunity to plant that growers didn’t want to pass up.”
One threat to this early planted corn crop is variable stand from field to field. According to Kavanaugh, it is common for any grower to find a 4 to 10 percent reduction in stand this year due to an erratic warm up and accumulation of GDUs coupled with early season damping off diseases like Pythium and Rhizoctonia.
“Hybrid emergence and newer fungicide packages certainly showed a pay back in 2020,” Kavanaugh noted.
During this cooler spring, plants appeared to be very slow growing above the ground until approximately V3, or 350 GDUs. But when a grower looked beneath the surface, they saw strong root systems that were ready to support the plant in a big way once areas experienced some heat and sunshine.
For the remaining 90 to 96 percent of healthy stands from early planting, there are major opportunities. Growers could plant fuller season hybrids to take advantage of the long grain fill period later in season, while still getting adequate dry down. Early planted corn takes advantage of longer days and more sunlight at key stages of growth. Corn plants often do not get as tall when planted early, therefore lowering their vulnerability to green snap from severe July storms.
“It is certainly a cycle. Early planted corn allows growers to get into fields and harvest earlier, get field work done earlier and be ready to plant early again next year,” Kavanaugh explained.
LATER PLANTED CORN FIELDS
Later planted corn has major opportunity as well. Patience paid off in areas that received normal rainfall and quicker GDU accumulation, resulting in near perfect stands. There were some pockets that received 4-8 inches of rain immediately following planting, which in turn showed some hybrids inability to emerge in saturated conditions resulting in multiple rounds of replant.
“The past several years has shown that later planted corn can yield as much or better than early planted corn, but the risks are higher,” says Kavanaugh.
Rapid vegetative growth leads to longer internodes and much taller plants, leading to a higher risk of green snap in July. Kavanaugh says that these later planted corn plants have a higher susceptibility to July and August heat, dry weather and late season disease like Goss’s Wilt, Rust and Tar Spot. In addition, later planted corn faces more risk in September. A warm September and more GDU development creates deep kernels to maximize grain fill, while a cool September does not.
Kavanaugh has some final words of advice.
“Growers need to be diligent about overcoming threats and capitalizing on all opportunities in this 2020 crop. Be in your fields, dig in your fields, study your fields and ask questions about your fields all season long!”