2019 Corn Harvest – Was Crop Health in Late Season as You Liked?

Good folks all across the Central part of the United States up into the Great Lakes region and out west are getting into the fields,  Just these past few days tho, the ugly winds swept down out of Canada and have blown down corn and twisted up soybeans that were not harvested making for a large number of growers cranky and in a fashion slapped again by Mother Nature.  I sympathize guys and gals, boy do I ever.

That matter brings me to a fact of late season fertility when your corn for instance was near or at R2 stage.  The plant has just gone through the most intensive period of its lifespan and called for extensive amounts through the roots and leaves for potassium (K), phosphorus (P), nitrogen (N), and sulfur (S) to be translocated into those embryos of the ear.  The stalk being the conduit to get those materials in the form of complex sugars, proteins, fats and fatty acids moved to meet all the genetic demands to fill those kernels.  As that happened a great deal of products were translocated at times at the expense of some other metabolic processes.  What a busy time, much akin to some of the complex busy fly-overs and turns on and off I20 and I10 in the Dallas-Ft. Worth corridors at 7:45am on a Monday morning. Cars going every different direction.

Corn at R2 stage
Courtesy Kansas State Univ.

Where am I going with this?  Consider in that busy traffic of sugars moving, water, nutrients demanded to develop proteins and sugars as well as other carbohydrates developed and going up and down the phloem and xylem tissue highways, from the roots way up to the ear and other fluids from the leaves to the ear – now and then there is some slowed or up against the guard rail with the hood up and steam coming out and a flat tire. Whoa! Something went wrong or petered out. A car with the right amount of K just went flat to a stop.  This all might be an over simplistic representation of the right ions zipping around and hung up or lost in the system of reproduction of a corn plant.  But as the saying goes, “Stuff Happens”.  When this occurs we may observe later a plant lose stalk strength or the top of the plant cracks and blows out or the ear shank drops a full ear out of the shucks and plop – on the ground sits an ear of 650 kernels.  Hmmmm!  Did a miss of maybe a late application or even a miss up in the earlier part of the crops lifespan not get a dose of proper nutrients to feed the plant for the super busy Monday morning on the I10/I20 roadways?  Yes wind is a bugger at 50mph for a long period.  Dried down stalks, maybe some stalk rot crept in or a long dry period and the plant just did not have enough moisture to remain healthy and your plant health was compromised.  My point is, did we look back at the R1-R2 stage and consider a booster shot of the right materials to take the plant all the way to harvest.

For at times I know this is late to be talking about nutrient adequacy.  But harvest shows anyone of us some details we may have overlooked or forgot about until the snout of the combine is running through the field and you are seeing down corn and ears on the ground.  Yes wind is wind, I acknowledge that folks and when the winds are fierce, well we can do nothing about it.

We at Orthman believe a well managed fertility system not only starts with pre-plant nutrient sources and materials, placed at the best depths to be intercepted by the roots but the mid and late season nutrient applications will help your crop perform near your expectations.  Yes Mother Nature as we call it must be right.  Please do not hesitate to talk with our guys that wear the Orthman hats and shirts, contact me Orthman’s soils man if you like and let us discuss some of thos questions you may have.  Your Extension Specialists, Seed Company’s agronomists; they all can discuss what late nutrient applications may mean in the corn crops life all the way to harvest.

May harvest go better and get it into the bins for you all.