Fields get much needed rains

Much needed rain finally fell last week, in all totaling approximately 2-1/2 inches. This moisture came following an exceedingly long, cold, dry winter and a lack of significant rainfall this spring.

If asked about crops or cattle, area farmers and ranchers were beginning to plan for worst case scenarios. Now, a little rainfall has been an answered prayer but certainly one that area farmers and ranchers hope continues to be answered.

The lack of moisture could be hurting corn yields more and more every day that the plants are stressed, but the soybean yields likely are not yet being affected, according to Dan Dalinghaus, manager of the Sabetha location of Ag Partners Cooperative.

Because soybeans can bloom several times in a year and can make seed later in the year, Dalinghaus said, soybean yields probably are not yet being affected by the lower-than-average rainfall.

“But, the [soybean] plant needs to be able to stay alive, which takes water,” he said.

On the flip side, he said, low moisture levels coupled with delayed planting could wind up over-stressing area corn plants.

Extended cold delayed much of the corn planting, which means that much of the area corn will be pollinating during the heat of July. This leaves plants open to the likelihood of corn pollinating at a time of high heat, which can cause the corn silks to get burnt, Dalinghaus said, thereby diminishing pollination and yield.

Recent moisture is helpful, but because the subsoil moisture levels are severely depleted it will take continued rains to ease drought worries. Without continued well-timed rains area corn fields could continue showing exacerbated signs of stress.

“Rain makes grain is an old saying that will always hold true,” Dalinghaus said. “Corn has one shot at pollination. If it misses this window — due to lack of moisture or excessive heat — there will be no kernels and no grain to harvest.”

Dalinghaus explained that the corn plants are in the “V” stages right now, or “Vegetation.” When the tassel appears, the corn is in “R” or “Reproduction” stages.

“Even when the corn is knee high, or V6 stage, it is determining the size of the ear and number of kernels around,” Dalinghaus said. “So we are almost at a critical stage here. Some plants are at that stage now, while others are just below that.”

The Iowa State University agricultural department says farmers lose between one and three bushels every day the corn plant is stressed up to V12, Dalinghaus said.

“When the tassel appears and we go into reproduction stages is when the number of kernels that are filled is determined,” Dalinghaus said. “After the plant has pollinated the kernels, it will abort kernels if stressed too much. This is called tip back or die back, where the kernels on the tip of the ear die off due to stress and/or lack of moisture.”

“The corn plant will do whatever it can to make seed. Anytime it is stressed, it will counter the stress by making less kernels or smaller kernels,” he said. “After the kernels are so far along, it will rob nutrients out of the stalk if needed to fill the kernels. Then the stalk gets weak and wants to break off just before harvest.”

Amber Deters116 Posts

Amber Deters is Co-Editor of The Sabetha Herald, where she has been on staff since 2005. She specializes in school board, election and legislative reporting, as well as photography and page and advertising design. Amber is a 2005 Kansas State University graduate with a degree in journalism and mass communications, print journalism sequence. She lives in Sabetha with her husband and three children.

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