Maturity Issue Could Have Legs

Might hurry late corn crop to mature on time.

Corn running a week to two weeks behind in June may not be so alarming. Corn running that far behind normal in maturity in early August is a horse of a different color. Even talk of normal frosts in some areas may give the late corn maturity issue ‘legs’ amongst traders, and definitely impact how you might prepare for fall.

The high yield plot at the Corn Illustrated plots in south-central Indiana are just now tasseling and silking. That’s two to three weeks behind normal. Last year fungicide was sprayed on the plots July 9. This year, because Dave Nanda, the consultant for CI, thinks there could be enough disease around to justify spraying, the plots may be sprayed- a the same stage of growth, but in the next day or two- not nearly a month ago.

Meanwhile, the story is the same in other areas. Nebraska has a decent corp, according to Don McCabe, editor of Nebraska Farmer. Their plague has been storms with high winds and tornadoes, but not flooding. The crop is about a week behind, although it seems to be catching up, he notes.

In Missouri, crops are late, especially in flood-ravaged areas. It’s the same story in Iowa. And in more northern states, especially in the Great plains of the Dakotas, insiders say that while the crop looks decent, even with a normal frost date in those areas, some fields likely may run out of time and not mature properly.

The key is reaching black layer maturity, notes Bob Nielsen, Purdue University corn specialist. That’s the point at which the plant has reached physiological maturity, and is safe from frost or other possible causes of early death, including insects and diseases. A black layer of tissue forms at the base of each kernel. No more material can enter or leave the kernel after that point.

Late-planted corn does speed up the rate of maturity somewhat, but for fields not yet tasseling, which aren’t hard to find even yet in previously water-logged areas where replanting was necessary, whether it can speed up enough or not may be the question.

We’ll continue to report on the progress toward maturity of the CI plots. Meanwhile, this might be a developing story to watch. Even with normal frost dates, late maturity could play a factor in how yields and profits turn out for the ’08 season. Even if corn matures but is wetter than usual, with high energy costs, drying could cut into profits fairly quickly.

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