Crop Updates: A great deal of timely information was provided in this week’s CropWatch at http://cropwatch.unl.edu including information about high heat and pollination, applying fertilizer during pollination, western bean cutworm scouting, forecasted yields, etc. Please check it out!
Several called me asking about applying fertilizer during pollination. I shared that while
I wasn’t aware of research, I personally was concerned about anything potentially interfering with pollination and that I do recommend 30 lbs of N at brown silk if needed or if you were originally planning split nitrogen apps. This is based on research from Purdue sharing today’s hybrids use 30-40% of their total Nitrogen from flowering through maturity. After discussing with Dr. Tom Hoegemeyer, Adjunct UNL Professor of Practice, he offered the following insights: “Pollination mostly occurs between 8:30 a.m. and Noon. Thus, as a precaution, I would not run a pivot on pollinating corn from 6 a.m. to Noon. When the temperature is 90°F to 95°F, the pollen is killed by heat and is seldom viable past 2 p.m. That leaves lots of time to run pivots, apply N, etc. when it won’t harm pollination. Silks tend to be viable for three or four days at these temperatures, so if a plant isn’t pollinated one day, generally the next day will work just fine. (If nitrogen is needed), I’d recommend that nitrogen go on as soon as practical. Corn nitrogen use is very high during the pre-tassel growth phase and again at kernel growth, from one to three weeks post pollination. About seven to ten days post pollination (before brown silk) lower N will start causing kernel abortion and serious yield loss in corn.” The UNL recommendation for fertigation is to use 30 lb of N with 0.25″ of water or 50-60 lb of N with 0.50″ of water.
Last week also brought questions regarding thresholds and difficulty in finding Western Bean Cutworm egg masses with moth flights at their peak. You can view light trap data from UNL’s South Central Ag Lab thanks to Terry Devries at: https://scal.unl.edu/ltr2018.pdf. There’s also a great article in this week’s CropWatch on how to scout for them, insecticide options, and additional recommendations. Thresholds for western bean cutworm are 5-8% of corn plants in the field containing egg masses or larvae. Egg masses can be difficult to find during pollination with pollen hiding them. ‘Typically’ egg masses are found in the top third of the plant on the upper sides of leaves and near midribs or leaf axils. However, with higher heat, I tend to find them closer to the ears and have even seen masses laid on the ear husks and on the backsides of leaves (not common). While larvae are generally known to move up the plant to feed at the tassels, I’ve seen high heat force larvae into ears earlier. It typically takes 5-7 days for larvae to hatch and the egg masses turn purple just prior to hatching. A number of insecticide options are available for both aerial application and via chemigation; these products are listed in the CropWatch article.
With insecticide applications occurring in corn for both western bean cutworm and also corn rootworm beetles, many have also called or talked with me about the recommendation of fungicide applications. Right now, I haven’t found gray leaf spot above 3 leaves below the ear leaf in several counties. There’s been some mis-diagnosing bacterial leaf streak as gray leaf spot. Southern rust was just confirmed in a Kansas county this week, but we still have yet to confirm it in Nebraska. Even the longest residual products won’t get us through August if a fungicide application occurs now. I can appreciate that economics are tight so the thought is to save an additional application cost by applying a fungicide now with the insecticide. And, I can appreciate economics are tight regarding why apply a fungicide right now when disease pressure doesn’t warrant it? Perhaps, at least those of you with the ability to chemigate could consider waiting till disease pressure warrants it for your field, if it does. Always in the back of my mind is the need for late-season protection with southern rust eventually showing up and gray leaf spot often worse then.
My perspective is from a resistance management and research-based one. We have 5 total modes of action for fungicides with 2 of them being in nearly every fungicide product we use in corn, soybean, and wheat because they work against foliar fungal pathogens. At some point, our pathogens will also adapt, as we’ve seen our weeds and insects do…it would be like losing our ability to control gray leaf spot and southern rust similar to palmer amaranth on the weed side. In Nebraska, Dr. Tamra Jackson-Ziem’s research has not shown an automatic yield increase to fungicide application in the absence of disease. And, it has also not shown an automatic yield increase when applied at tassel. In a high heat and low disease year like 2012, there were no statistical yield differences with fungicide application vs. the untreated control. Even in years with some disease pressure such as 2008-2010, she found no statistical yield differences between when various products were applied from Tassel through Dough stages. In high disease years, her research shows the benefit of fungicide application for reduced disease pressure and increased stalk strength. Fungicides are great tools to help us with disease pressure and stalk strength. Just would encourage all of us to consider when we really need to apply them and to understand that research in Nebraska does not automatically show increased yields with the use of them or with the timing of Tassel/Silking vs. later in the year. Also, hybrids may vary in their response due to disease susceptibility and other factors. Not all her data is listed at this site, but you can view it for yourself at: https://go.unl.edu/ni3y.
Bagworms: I’ve been seeing shelter belts and various trees turning brown from heavy
bagworm infestations. Please be checking your trees if you are noticing them turning brown. Additional information can be found at: https://go.unl.edu/rgju.
With the high heat, lack of rainfall, and pollination occurring in many fields or just around the corner, questions have been rolling in regarding how high heat affects corn pollination. Dr. Tom Hoegemeyer, UNL Agronomy Professor of Practice wrote the following article and I’m sharing it for the excellent info. Hybrid Maize simulations will be shared in this week’s CropWatch and in next week’s news article.
“Corn was originally a tropical grass from the high elevation areas of central Mexico about 7,400 feet above sea level, 2,000 feet higher than Denver. Today, corn still prefers conditions typical of that area — warm daytime temperatures and cool nights. Areas that consistently produce high corn yields share some significant characteristics. These areas — central Chile, the west slope of Colorado, etc. — are usually very bright, clear, high light intensity areas with cool nights.
This year, in the prairie states and in the Cornbelt, conditions have been dramatically less than optimal. Corn maximizes its growth rate at 86°F. Days with temperatures hotter than that cause stress. In the high yield areas, cool night temperatures — at or below 50°F — reduce respiration rates and preserve plant sugars, which can be used for growth or reproduction, or stored for yield. These are optimum conditions for corn, and interestingly, are fairly typical for areas around central Mexico where corn is native.
In years when we get high day and nighttime temperatures coinciding with the peak pollination period, we can expect problems. Continual heat exposure before and during pollination worsens the response. Daytime temperatures have consistently stayed in the upper 90s to low 100s.The high humidity, which helps reduce crop water demand, also increases the thermal mass of the air—and provides extra stored heat and insulation at night.
Corn pollen is produced within anther sacs in the anther. The plant releases new, fresh anthers each morning, starting from near the top of the tassel, on the first day of shed, and proceeding downward over several days. The process of releasing the pollen from the anthers is called “dehiscence.” Dehiscence is triggered by the drop in humidity, as the temperature rises. However, when it is extremely humid and the humidity falls very little, dehiscence may not occur at all, or it may be delayed until late in the day. If one has breezes, while the humidity is still very high, the anthers may fall to the ground before pollen is released. If the temperature rises too high before pollen dehiscence occurs, the pollen may have reduced viability when it is shed. A person experienced at hand pollination in corn will often see this happen. There will be anthers in a “tassel bag,” but little pollen. The usual solution to this is to wait a couple hours until the temperature rise reduces the humidity. However, last year we had some conditions where pollen was never released from the anthers. This can impact silk fertilization, particularly in open-pollinated situations.
Corn is a “C4 Photosynthesis” plant, making it extremely efficient at capturing light and fixing CO2 into sugars. One drawback of this system is that with high daytime temperatures, the efficiency of photosynthesis decreases, so the plant makes less sugar to use or store. High nighttime temperatures increase the respiration rate of the plant, causing it to use up or waste sugars for growth and development. This results in the plant making less sugar but using up more than it would during cooler temperatures. Heat, especially combined with lack of water, has devastating effects on silking. If plants are slow to silk, the bulk of the pollen may already be shed and gone. Modern hybrids have vastly improved “ASI” or anthesis-silk interval (the time between mid-pollen shed and mid silk). Regardless, in some dryland fields we see seed set problems because of “nick” problems between pollen and silking.
Even in some stressed areas within irrigated fields (extreme sandy spots, hard pans or compaction areas where water isn’t absorbed and held, and some “wet spots”) we can see stress-induced slow silking and resulting seed set issues. Historically, this has been the most important problem leading to yield reduction, particularly in stressful years. Once silks begin to desiccate, they lose their capacity for pollen tube growth and fertilization.
Even with adequate moisture and timely silking, heat alone can desiccate silks so that they become non-receptive to pollen. This is a bigger problem when humidity is low and on hybrids that silk quite early relative to pollen shed. Even with dew points in the 70s, when temperatures reach the high 90s to the100s, the heat can still desiccate silks and reduce silk fertility.
Heat also affects pollen production and viability. First, heat over 95°F depresses pollen production. Continuous heat, over several days before and during pollen-shed, results in only a fraction of normal pollen being formed, probably because of the reduced sugar available. In addition, heat reduces the period of pollen viability to a couple hours (or even less). While there is normally a surplus of pollen, heat can reduce the fertility and amount available for fertilization of silks. Research has shown that prolonged exposure to temperatures reduced the volume of pollen shed and dramatically reduced its viability. For each kernel of grain to be produced, one silk needs to be fertilized by one pollen grain.”