The 2010 corn crop matured early across a good share of the Corn Belt, especially central and southern areas. Lots of heat all season long pushed the crop along to an earlier maturity. Then dry weather in some areas has hastened maturity. In fact, in some are4as- the corn is already harvested. Moisture contents as low as 12% coming out of the field were rumored in Indiana.
Where areas received rains in mid to late August, crops aren't quite as far along, including corn. If you drive north along almost any highway, it's easy to judge where it rained in the last half of the summer vs. where it didn't rain.
Even where it did, corn is maturing and taking on a mid-October look. Why did that happen?
First, some diseases were present, thanks to heat and lots of humidity most of the year, says Dave Nanda, a crops consultant, Indianapolis, Ind. Gray leaf spot in central and southern areas and northern corn leaf blight in northern areas, plus diplodia and a smattering of other diseases were reported.
Whether or not, and if so, by how much, fungicides helped remains to be seen. Anecdotal reports say that applications stopped diseases development in its tracks in most cases. Yield reports may soon indicate how that translated into yield.
Second, warm nights led to more respiration than usual in the evening hours by plants. The end result is that the grain fill period happens quicker, doesn't last as long, and because it's compressed, maturity moves forward.
Third, some areas showed nitrogen deficiency. However, mixed reports are circulating. Some believe that while nitrogen deficiencies were diagnosed by looks, the plants still had adequate N. A combination of environmental factors and the rapid-fire season apparently caused some fields to take on the appearance of N deficiency. Some fields were truly deficient on N, with nitrogen being lost due to early rains and saturated soils.
Finally, dry weather led to plants drying up rapidly once black layer formed. Plants sensed the party was over' and progressed toward maturity. It was the opposite of last year, when many fields were late, and matured late.
It will be interesting to see what kind of yields resulted form these unusual conditions in 2010.