Emergence Issues and Freeze Events Set Up A Bumpy Year

( Aimee Cope )

A strong start to the 2020 planting season might be turning out to not be the strong finish farmers hoped for. Cool planting conditions, followed by frost and heavy rain events delayed germination, and in some cases killed emerged crops.

“The past two weeks have been a doozy,” says Farm Journal Field Agronomist Ken Ferrie. “It seems like every year there’s a time slot where you can look back and say we shouldn’t have planted corn on those days—I’m having trouble in central Illinois finding a window where we should have planted corn this year.”

In 2020, Ferrie has witnessed corn and soybean seed that sat more than 40 days in the ground prior to emerging—a feat he’d never seen before, and a feat that speaks to seed reliance. However, corn especially isn’t emerging evenly, which means yield potential is under threat.

“In some cases, we’re getting 28,000 to 30,000 stand counts [but it’s uneven],” Ferrie says. “It’s only 18,000 to 20,000 projected ear count. A stand count of 21,000 with 20,000 [harvestable] ears is a much better situation than 30,000 plants with 20,000 ears.”

Today’s uneven corn crop means even more trouble later in the season. Any plant one collar behind will only produce half an ear, and if it’s two collars behind it’s a weed that will hinder the crop around it. Ferrie says it’s important to be realistic about yield expectations—just because lower stand counts or later planting might have performed well last year, doesn’t mean they will again this year.

While corn was able to withstand recent freezes pretty well, soybeans took a beating.

“The fields we checked lost from 10% to 50% of their stand reduction and bigger beans seemed to have more damage,” Ferrie says. “I tried to keep a running tally of replant frozen beans, it was just a shade under 25% of the fields I looked at.”

It took soybeans that did recover twice as long as normal to come out of the freeze, he adds. But, then again, it was cold so the crop didn’t have the GDUs it needed to keep growing in many spots.

Freeze-damaged soybeans might actually have an advantage over non-damaged soybeans. If they had freeze damage to the cotelydon leaves, it’ll cause the plant to fork in two directions as it grows out of the damage and forked plants produce more pods.

For a video about what the May 10 freeze event did to planted crops, view here: https://www.croptechinc.com/the-perfect-storm/

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