Stalk Rots Help When Breaking Down Residue

Stalk Rots Help When Breaking Down Residue

Corn Illustrated: After harvest, stalk rots can help residue decay faster.

You don't want to see stalk rot in your cornfield before you harvest. If you do, you likely need to speed harvest before stalks are so infected they fall over. Fortunately, many fields seemed unaffected by stalk rots this fall with little to no lodging, even though some people expected they could be an issue.

There were some exceptions. Fields susceptible to diseases like northern corn leaf blight or gray leaf spot, were affected by lodging if left in the field too long. They died prematurely once disease took over in late August. The stress of the foliar disease opened up plants for infection by stalk rots late.

Residue breaks down: Note the black specks on the piece of stalk. That is a fungus at work on the corn residue. The only disadvantage is that if you're coming back with corn after corn, the inoculum for disease will be there and likely at higher levels than if you had tilled.

Corn Illustrated 11/18: Most Corn Fields Stood Well Despite Predictions of Lodging

Jeremy Henry, Connersville, doesn't might seeing organisms, even stalk rot fungi, breaking down pieces of stalk residue, but only after harvest. He no-tills and is growing cover crops. If the residue breaks down quicker, he believes he's getting more nutrients returned to the soil faster, and planting into corn residue in the spring will be easier.

Henry is so adamant about starting stalk reside decomposition that he engineered his standard corn rollers on his corn head so residue is more open to breakdown. There are commercial rollers available which do the same thing. Henry was able to re-work the corn head on his own because he is a skilled machinist.

Corn Illustrated 11/11: Save Every Ear You Can During Harvest

Finding pieces of corn residue that are decaying, laying amongst growing cover crop plants, doesn't bother him at all. In fact it's what the likes to see. He seeds cover crops off his corn head. By early November, he found decaying residue in the midst of good cover crop growth in a field harvested in late September.

For more corn news, corn crop scouting information and corn diseases to watch for, follow Tom Bechman's column, Corn Illustrated Weekly, published every Tuesday.

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