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Late planting could benefit corn damaged by wind storms

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Written Thursday, August 04, 2011  

Recent spotty thunderstorms with strong winds damaged or flattened hundreds of Midwestern corn acres, but a Purdue Extension expert says late-planted corn has the potential to recover.

Because of the wet spring that delayed planting, many corn plants were still in the late vegetative development phase and still in the process of stalk elongation, said corn specialist Bob Nielsen.

"Root-lodged stalks that are still elongating can respond to such root-lodging by slowly bending or 'goose-necking' in an attempt to regain an upright stance," he said. "That bending happens as changes are made in the distribution of plant growth hormones in the stalk tissue that cause more rapid elongation on the bottom side of the nearly horizontal stalks than on the top side."

So long as the root damaged caused by lodging isn't extreme and there is adequate soil moisture to encourage root development, Nielsen said flattened corn fields at these growth stages can recover.

While severely root-lodged fields usually will not recover completely, if damaged plants can "goose-neck" sufficiently and quickly enough by the time the plants move into the tassel/silk pollination period, pollination likely will be successful.

Nielsen used the example of a 30-acre cornfield at the Davis-Purdue Ag Center in Randolph County that suffered wind damage during a July 22 storms. He estimated 80-90 percent of the plants were root-lodged and laying on the ground. But, just six days after the storm, stalks were upright again (photos available at http://www.agry.purdue.edu/ext/corn/news/articles.11/FlatCorn-0728.html ).

"The field had been planted June 3, which is much later than desired, due to the frustratingly late, wet planting season," Nielsen said. "However, the good news is that plant development was consequently delayed and the field was about a week away from tasseling and pollination, meaning the plants were still in their rapid growth phase with stalks still rapidly elongating.

"Dramatic bending of the horizontal lower stalk tissue resulted in 'goose-necked' plants and, more importantly, enough upright growth to place the silking ears in a position to be exposed to pollen from the tassels."

Any yields that were lost during the storms won't be evaluated until harvest. If weather conditions improve during grain fill, Nielsen said the challenge for farmers will be moving the combine header through the still root-lodged lower portions of the crop canopy.

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