Corn Crop Catching Up


The growth of the region’s corn crop slowed to a crawl with the cooler temperatures, then raced to catch up during last week’s near record highs.  NC State Extension Corn Specialist Dr. Ron Heiniger says the crop is back on track, and the yield potential is still there:

“I do want to say this; I don’ t think we’ve lost anything in yield potential, it’s just been a fact of temperature that’s slowed us down.  I think we’re still on track for a good crop.”

Temperatures in the 70’s this week shouldn’t be much of a setback says Heiniger:

“It certainly will keep it from growing off as rapidly as it has been in the last days that we’ve been here in the 80’s.  But, no, I don’t think it’s going to hurt too bad, it’s those days where we get into the low 60’s, and 50’s temperatures, even into the early morning; 10:00 hour those are the days that we lose heat units that really slows or stalls this corn growth down. 

“I really think, these upper 70’s, even if we get into the 50’s in the evenings, we’ll still be in really good shape for keeping the corn growth going.”

Most growers plant with the intention of having pollination done before the predictably hot, dry spell we seem to have the last week of June and first week of July.  Heiniger says the early slowdown shouldn’t have much of an effect:

“That’s the interesting thing, when you look at growing degree days, which, of course is what corn grows by, and the timing of pollination, looking year in and year out, looking at say, 30 years worth of data, we get these periods where we’ll have slow growth, but they usually compensate with two or three warm weeks, but usually by silking, surprisingly we’ll catch up to our 30 year average.  In other words, the slower growth is compensated by a little warmer weather late, so we end up in the same boat, year in and  year out, when we plant corn, it tends, by silking to have averaged out.

“I think, for the most part, we’re counting on silking corn grown in mid- April and early May, should still be silking that last week in June, and anything planted after the first of May is going to be silking that first week of July.”

With the heavy rains the last of April, Heiniger says this is the time to work on side-dressing:

“This is really what’s key for these growers right now; we’ve got the weather, now that we know that these nutrients have pushed down a little bit, it’s really important to get on this corn and side dress it with some nitrogen.  And in many cases we’ll need some sulfur, we’ve lost sulfur here on these lighter soils, you certainly see this on many of these sandier fields across the state.  They’re really going to need to looking at some 24S, or some sulfur in their lay by. 

“But, now is the time that the corn really wants to grow, and really at v-6, v-7, it’s time to really set the size of this year.  You’ve really got to be timely with this side-dress this year. 

“This is it.  This is the time.”

And, hard to believe, Heiniger says irrigation may be needed:

“You’re back on an irrigation track now, that’s exactly right.  We’ve gone through this wet weather, we were tired of water.  But now, again, and this is the nature of our climate again, is that as it turns warm, you get these days back in the upper 80’s, and one in the 90’s, you’re going to need…this corn is using two-tenths of an inch of water a day, and it’s drying up, and you need to get that irrigation ready to supplement again.”

A native of the Texas Panhandle, Rhonda was born and raised on a cotton farm where she saw cotton farming evolve from ditch irrigation to center pivot irrigation and harvest trailers to modules. After graduating from Texas Tech University, she got her start in radio with KGNC News Talk 710 in Amarillo, Texas.