Farm Horizons, Oct. 2016

Rain makes grain?

By Dave Schwartz
Certified crop advisor, Gold Country Seed

Usually, when corn growers in Minnesota receive above-normal rainfall for the months of July and August, grain yields run above normal. This period is typically hot and dry, so above-normal moisture during this period reduces stress on corn and soybeans, resulting in above-average yields.

A University of Minnesota weather site used to check weather in the area found that this year Wright County averaged 7.7 inches of rainfall in July (3.8 is normal), and 7.2 inches of rainfall in August (4.3 is normal). I noticed rainfall at one location as high as 11.2 inches for the month of July.

We had a series of weather events this growing season that took a toll on the crop.

The frost of May 15 froze corn plants that had already emerged. Plants eventually came back, but the frost set some plants back more than others. This unevenness will take a few bushels off the top, especially in the fields that were most advanced at the time of the frost.

I am a strong believer in early planting dates, but this year it appears fields planted April 15 will not yield as well as those planted the last week of April.

Numerous hail storms passed through the area, taking a toll on the crop. One Hutchinson grower told me his crop suffered from four hail storms during this summer.

In addition to gully-washing rains, frost in May, and hail storms, strong winds accompanying these storms in July caused corn plants to green snap.

Green snap occurs when corn plants become more brittle during an active growth stage between waist-high corn through tassel.

In many fields, I have seen 3 percent to 10 percent of the plants broken off from green snap.

There is nearly a direct relationship with plant reduction and yield loss with green snap, so fields that lost 10 percent of the plants will have approximately 10 percent less yield.

All of these weather-related events have taken a toll on this year’s crop. A few growers were just plain unlucky and were hit by all of these weather events. Their crops will suffer the most. On the other hand, some growers escaped these storms and are looking at a great crop. On average though, yields will be down from the record-setting crop of 2015.

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