Ear Aches: Banana Ear, Snapped Corn and Late Corn To Blame

While this corn is further along in its lifecycle, lodging is troubling at any stage. ( Sonja Begemann )

With corn pollination over or nearly over for much of the crop, it’s time to start scouting for ear count and pollination success. In some areas, drought, wind and other challenges might mean ear counts are lower than expected.

“Everything I looked at looks good as far as pollination goes,” says Ken Ferrie, Farm Journal field agronomist. But he shares other areas are showing stress. “I am getting some pictures of corn that pollinated in the hotter, drier weather in the south.”

With hot, dry weather you’ll see kernel abortion, typically down one side of the ear. This causes ‘banana’ or ‘hook’ ear as the ear will curve where the kernels abort.

Aborted kernels and poor pollination hurt kernel counts and therefore, yield. In addition, uneven corn from replant or slow emergence could mean lower ear counts, too.

This unevenness equals cuts to expected yields.

“This week we yield checked from 170 to 270 [bu. per acre] with the 170 in April corn and 270 in May corn,” Ferrie says. “As you do your yield estimates in this uneven corn, check the late plants, and if they’re going to put on some grain, count them as half an ear in your ear count.”

In fields where greensnap occurred, if it’s above the ear count those as half an ear in counts as well. Both later-maturing corn and greensnapped corn ears are likely to be smaller, so adjust stripper plates at harvest to make sure you get every kernel possible.

Lodging struggles point to tricky harvest.

“I’ve seen more wind damage than I expected outside of the wind corridor,” Ferrie says. “Some plants are just gooseneck.”

In fields where you have lodging instead of snapped stalks, it’s time to evaluate what caused the issue. While it’s too late to do anything this year, you might be able to correct it for next season.

“We need to dig in these fields and do a good evaluation of the root system,” Ferrie explains. Here are a few issues that can encourage lodging:

  • Rootless corn syndrome
  • Sidewall compaction
  • Heavy rootworm feeding
  • Deeply tilled fields that got oversaturated

Expect some of the lodged fields to be frustrating this fall. You’ll likely need to slow down, be strategic about which direction you harvest and consider add-on options to gather all the grain.

What pests are out there?

Pests don’t just mean insects—but they are out there—also scout for diseases that could be looming. With humidity on the rise, many corn diseases could be ramping up.

“This week gray leaf spot and physoderma brown spot are the easiest to find,” he says. “I did see three fields with a touch of Northern Corn Leaf Blight, which is a surprise based on how warm it has been here.”

Keep an eye on fields with these diseases to determine if treatment would be valuable. Ferrie has also found bacterial leaf streak in fields with hail damage and expects Goss’s Wilt to show up shortly. With these two diseases, fungicide is not a good control option and just means you’ll need to adjust your marketing strategy to reflect the impact of the disease.

And now is the time to also keep your eyes open for insects. If you’re considering non-GMO corn without insecticides in your future, this is a great time window to get an idea on your pressure. If the insect pressure is too high, it might not be possible.

Ferrie is seeing Japanese beetles, corn rootworm, fall armyworm and grasshoppers. Fields with drought stress are especially full of grasshoppers and might need to be sprayed.

Listen for more detail on what Ferrie is seeing and hearing here:

Ken Ferrie

For more agronomic information and topics, check out Ken Ferrie’s presentation during Farm Journal Field Days Aug. 25-27. Farm Journal Virtual Field Days offers something on the agenda for everyone on the farm team. With this hybrid event experience, you can customize your time investment to match your schedule.

Register now for the free virtual event: https://www.farmjournalfielddays.com/