Agronomist describes widely variable conditions for corn this growing season

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Agronomist describes widely variable conditions for corn this growing season

Photo By Erika Parker

An agronomist in Illinois says this season has “been a wild ride” for corn in the eastern part of the state.

Erika Parker with Advanced Agrilytics says variable weather conditions, nitrogen loss, and disease pressure after R3 caused challenges.

“It was so sad how fast the corn crop went from amazingly beautiful to just a painful corn plant death,” she says. “The repercussions of that were stalk quality that deteriorated quickly, the plant wasn’t able to get or move those nutrients because the plant was under stress, and less kernel depth. We were set up for a beautiful year and our yields are good don’t get me wrong. It’s still a strong corn yield year, but for someone who walks corn the entire season and saw what could have been, we know a lot of things went well but we can still have a better year in future years too if we would have mitigated a couple of risk factors.”

She says tar spot showed up earlier than expected and negatively impacted the lower leaves of the corn plant.

“While those might not be normally thought of as extremely important for yield potential, those bottom leaves still feed the stalk of the plant,” she says. “We also started seeing tar spot come in from the top and tar spot became a situation where it took away the photosynthetic capability of the plant. It’s like taking a factory and shutting it down for two hours early every day and still expecting the same production out of it—it doesn’t work that way.”

Parker says this season highlighted the importance of variable rate nitrogen scripts.

“It’s taken me awhile to appreciate and believe in the quality of variable rate nitrogen scripts, but this year has made me a believer,” she says. “In addition to that I think the bigger part is that when you have the opportunity to see the variable rate nitrogen inhibitor employed in a field that was huge. If we can protect the nitrogen that’s there, we don’t necessarily have to put out excessive amounts more.”

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Audio: Erika Parker