Tips for Determining Why Stalks Are Lodging

LH 5725 VT2PROAs Harvest 2021 gets underway, we will start our morning checks to see which fields should be prioritized for harvest. Hybrid maturity helps guide us to certain fields, but sometimes a field stands out for another reason like late-season stalk lodging.

Hybrids have different susceptibility to stalk rots as the season progresses. Knowing the hybrid you have on every field – and how each hybrid handles stalk rot diseases – is important. Another consideration is whether the hybrid you planted is a racehorse because racehorse hybrids do whatever it takes to fill an ear even if that means cannibalizing the stalk. This can be an unfortunate reality in a year like 2021 where moisture was very limited across most of Latham Country. A fungicide can keep the lower stalk healthier later into harvest, so if you choose to spray, you likely will see better standability.

Decisions made early in the season also influence late-season stalk health. Planter singulation is key. Doubles or multiples causes corn plants to grow on top of one another, so most of the time only one of those plants will develop an ear. Shallow planting depth causes the “crown” to establish closer to the soil surface, predisposing plants to root rot during this point in the season. Uniform competition is really important for neighboring corn plants, so that’s why good singulation and even emergence are important.

Planting population can influence stalk diameter and stalk health. You can push planting populations more if you keep your fertility levels in check. If you’re having stalk lodging issues and tend to push higher populations, then test soils and investigate where you may have an issue. If you notice foliar symptoms as you’re scouting throughout the season, then there is no better time than right after harvest to take soil samples. Potassium is a key nutrient for building healthy stalks. Micro-nutrients are also important, but it requires a balance. Too much of one nutrient can prevent other nutrients from being taken up by the corn plant.

As you walk your fields prior to fall harvest, do the “pinch” or “push” test to monitor stalk health. If you’re wondering about whether your soil fertility is influencing stalk health or haven’t soil tested in a while, feel free to give me a call. I’ll be glad to talk with you about the benefits of using Latham’s Data Forward® program.