Odd ears offer a teaching tool
The PowerPoint presentation has become a farm meeting favorite, but when it comes to showing farmers what can go wrong, it’s better to have something they can hold, says Peter Thomison, OSU Extension corn agronomist. So he brings along examples of abnormal ears.
“Working with Extension agents, I try to present examples of the most common problems so growers can see what might be going on during the growing season,” he says.
Most of the trouble spots are not very big, Thomison notes. “For example, beer can ears may show up in only small pockets — sometimes less than an acre within a field. But the impact within these localized areas can be dramatic.”
In most years, poor tip fill and kernel abortion due to drought stress are among the most common problems Thomison sees. Poor kernel fill may be the result of adverse climatic conditions during pollination that disrupt the reproductive timing. Ears that have tip dieback may be stressed by a lack of water as a result of dry conditions or perhaps water shortfall combined with high plant populations.
“Year in, year out, poor kernel fill at the tips is probably the biggest concern,” he says. “But it may be better to have some dieback at the tip. A completely filled ear may indicate that plant population is not high enough, and farmers want to be sure they have taken full advantage of the hybrid’s yield potential.”
This article published in the March, 2010 edition of OHIO FARMER.