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Michigan Corn Seeing Stalk Integrity Issues Plaguing 2021 Crop

Corn harvest | Photo: Ashley Davenport

Michigan corn is seeing its fair share of stalk integrity issues from a variety of factors.

“When you think about what kinds of stresses can cause this premature death—it could be drought stress, little solar radiation, foliar diseases such as tar spot which we’ve seen a lot this year, nutrient deficiencies during grain fill—can all have an effect,” says Christopher Bauer, Pioneer agronomist. “Then your photosynthesis is reduced and therefore the amount of carbohydrates produced to fill the kernels is reduced as well.”

Christopher Bauer says when stressed, corn plants will pull carbs from the stalk and leaf tissue to make sure that ear gets nutrition.

“For me, the two biggest factors I’ve seen this year that have led to poor stalks would be one, lack of solar radiation, and tar spot is obviously the other one that’s happened,” he says.

Compared to the 30-year average, Bauer says solar radiation from mid-June to September has been on the decline.

“When we see that, it’s going to have an effect on how that plant is going to photosynthesize because it has less sunlight to be able to produce sugar, so it’s going to lead to a reduction in energy for the plant to fulfill what’s needed to fill out that grain,” says Bauer. “The plant needs energy so it’s going to start to mobilize those carbohydrates from the stalk, which in turn results in those weak stalks.”

Bauer says that growers are going to have to be selective when choosing their next fields to harvest because of these issues.