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Corn feeling the stress

July 21, 2012
By Steve Browne , Marshall Independent

First of a periodic series on some of the impact from this summer's dry conditions.

MARSHALL - Heat and drought have stressed the corn crop badly.

"Hanging on for dear life," is how Bryan Smith of Centrol Crop Consultants in Marshall described the condition of the crop. "Every day we don't have rain we lose more."

Smith said the condition of the corn is highly variable depending on soil conditions. Estimating crop losses is difficult since soil can vary from heavy to light sandy even within a field. Heavier soils retain moisture better than light sandy soil. Though some in some fields the corn is not yet showing the characteristic leaf curling of dehydrated conditions, in others the crop is already a total loss.

"It's basically good for heavier soils, still looking good," Smith said. "In lighter soils it's going backwards fast. The heavy soils are keeping us hopeful we'll get a crop, but for light sandy ground, zero."

According to Jodi DeJong-Hughes, agriculture educator with the University of Minnesota Extension office in Willmar, the corn is pollinating but not growing.

"They need water to fill out the ears," DeJong-Hughes said. "Some fields look pretty good. Earlier-planted corn got roots established and are scavenging water from deeper depths."

What would salvage the crop would be a fair amount of rain. However for the next week the National Weather Service predicts only a slight chance of thundershowers.

"Any rain would be welcome," Smith said, "but one to two inches would stop the bleeding immediately."

But in order for the crop to develop there will have to be persistent rain.

According to DeJong-Hughes, corn needs an average of one-third of an inch of rain per day and can deplete soil moisture reserves very quickly.



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