NC State Extension; Harvest Corn Early to Avoid Weather Damage

Recently at the Blacklands Farm Managers Field Day in Hyde County, North Carolina, NC State Extension Corn Specialist Dr. Ron Heiniger talked plant population and harvest timing for corn:

“The big story here is planting on time. Just getting prepared for the kind of weather you expect for the year was a big factor this year. Being on time this year, particularly late March early April was a big deal. In addition population was a factor. This field day really shows that if you are expecting hot weather in late June or early July, you should put the population in. You will get your kernels set early and even if you lose some pollination it wont be any different between populations. So, you set more kernels and make more yield just by putting a few more plants in the field. 

While we can produce bushels in this part of the country, our next goal is going to be kernel weight. It’s clear in looking at our data that it takes 105,000 kernels to make a bushel, compared to the Midwest where its 85,000. A lot of the issue here is late season temperatures, running out of nitrogen and some other factors. This is something we need to overcome. We are looking at some tills out here today, such as fertility fungicide and even defoliation to try to overcome that problem. 

The possibility of topping some corn has been explored. It’s a bit off the wall, and isn’t recommended for a typical grower, but we have to look outside the box every once in a while. The ear leaf is the key leaf on the corn, so if we can save that ear leaf or enhance the life by removing the transpiring upper canopy, we might be able to make some big differences. It’s an interesting experiment. 

We are seeing some good corn here and some good yields in this part of the state. If I had one thing to tell corn growers, it would be let’s get it out of here. With this heat the stalks are a little thinner this year so a big wind that might come with a hurricane is going to be a problem. I would recommend harvesting early to avoid tropical weather.”

NC State Extension Corn Specialist Dr. Ron Heiniger. is dedicated to serving the agricultural industry in the Carolinas and Virginia with the latest ag news, exclusive regional weather station readings, and key crop market information. The website is a companion of the Southern Farm Network, provider of daily agricultural radio programming to the Carolinas since 1974. presents radio programs, interviews and news relevant to crop and livestock production and research throughout the mid-Atlantic agricultural community.