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‘Picture of the Year’ describes this season

Tom J. Bechman hand holding two ears of corn
ONE PICTURE SPEAKS VOLUMES: All the elements are in this single picture to understand the 2022 season, Dave Nanda says. There are two good corn ears, one showing some mold, and minimal disease and nutrient deficiency lesions in the background.
Corn Watch: The title of the picture should be “Success Despite Challenges.”

There are hundreds of pictures logged away documenting what happened in the Corn Watch ’22 field. The one appearing here boils it down succinctly. Hang it on the wall and print the title “Success Despite Challenges” below it.

Based upon various reports, the photo likely represents a good part of the Corn Belt, except where just too much dry weather and heat stress early on challenged soils enough to tip the scales toward a poor year.

Related: What you can learn from following the combine

Dave Nanda, director of genetics for Seed Genetics Direct, sponsor of Corn Watch ’22, followed this field all season, but also communicated with growers in other areas.

“We are hearing about some pretty respectable yields despite lots of challenges,” Nanda says. “It truly is a testament to what modern corn breeders have accomplished in terms of developing hybrids that withstand considerable stress and still perform well.”

The Corn Watch ’22 field is harvested, but since on-farm storage is involved, the final yield isn’t in yet. Return next week for the big reveal.

Success despite challenges

All indications are that final yield will be above 200 bushels per acre. That would be higher than the projected statewide average for Indiana and the national USDA projected average. And that’s despite the fact that this field was still in the heart of a declared drought in late July.

“This grower sets his yield goal high, but anytime you are above 200 bushels per acre, it should be considered a successful year,” Nanda says. “My observations indicate that these weren’t perfect hybrids in some ways, such as holding ears upright too long, but they certainly demonstrated good yield potential under stress.”

The Corn Watch ’22 field faced the following challenges:

Hot, dry weather. This one isn’t as obvious from the picture, although in a year with abundant moisture, these ears would likely be longer, Nanda says. If the husks were peeled back on the second ear, there might be missing kernels scattered about where pollination was influenced by heat and drought stress.

Ear mold. The whitish mold at the tip of the ear without husks is evident. It was confirmed as gibberella ear mold through ear samples sent to Purdue University’s Plant and Pest Diagnostic Lab. The same return to ample rainfall in August that helped fill out kernels and pack in yield also promoted ear molds, gaining a foothold likely due to earlier-season stresses. However, over five weeks of historically dry weather after black layer thwarted these molds from spreading.

Disease lesions. There are a few obvious foliar disease lesions behind the ears. However, this picture was taken near black layer. Darcy Telenko, Purdue Extension disease specialist, notes that most diseases appeared so late this year that they did not cause economic damage.

Nitrogen deficiency. The leaf with the yellow stripe heading up the midrib from the tip shows classic nitrogen deficiency. However, at this stage in the season, some symptoms will appear, Nanda says. The question becomes whether the soil was short on nitrogen, or the plant shows symptoms because it transferred so much nitrogen into leaves to make the last few bushels. That provides food for thought.

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