Corn loves heat, but it also needs rain.
Above-average heat and below-average rainfall have resulted in some Manitoba cornfields, or parts of them, prematurely drying up, raising concerns about yield and quality.
“The crop is speeding along a lot faster than we would like it to,” Morgan Cott, the Manitoba Corn Growers Association’s field agronomist, said in an interview Aug. 24. “So that’s why you’re seeing the firing and a lot of pockets that are really brown. The edges (of fields) are obviously a lot worse because they’ll get more scalding from the sun.”
The “edge effect” means some cornfields probably look worse than they are, Cott said.
Despite starting off with mostly dry soils at seeding, Manitoba’s corn crop got off to a good start, thanks to some timely rains, Cott said.
The old saying goes corn should be knee-high by the fourth of July, but in this area many cornfields were six feet high by then.
“There are still a lot of cobs and lots filled right to the tips, which is really fantastic for the weather that we were getting through pollination,” she said.
“I don’t know how pollination worked out the way it did, because it was smoking hot in July right at the time of pollination. We just got lucky.”
Hot temperatures can dry up cornsilk preventing pollination. And seeds that are pollinated can abort if it’s too hot and dry.
“At first it (corn) was looking really good, especially at pollination when we were seeing the full cobs being pollinated, but now there is a little of abortion happening at the tips,” she said. “I’m more concerned about the quality and (bushel) weight at this point because of the fast maturing.”
Cott isn’t guessing what the average 2018 provincial corn yield will be, but expects it will be down from last year.
The Manitoba Agricultural Services Corporation’s (MASC) website says insured grain corn averaged 133 bushels an acre in 2017. That’s well above the 10-year average of 118, but under the 145-bushel record set in 2016.
As of last week MASC hasn’t had any calls from farmers seeking to write off their insured corn crops, David Koroscil, MASC’s manager of services, said in an interview.
“The main calls we’re getting on corn right now, because it is starting to dry down now quicker than normal, is producers looking to put up alternate feed sources for cattle,” he said. “We are getting some alternate use claims to go out to adjust those crops. We have seen reports of issues in the corn, but it’s really hard to assess at this time. Definitely we’ve heardof a lack of cobs and smaller-than-normal cobs.
Insured corn growers need MASC to calculate a crop’s potential yield before turning it into cattle feed, Koroscil said. If the potential yield is less than the insured yield the farmer will receive a crop insurance payment.