Monday, May 14, 2012

Cold Inhibition

Corn in these parts suffered from a phenomena called cold inhibition of germinating seed. When you click on the link, you see two good pictures of baby corn with its roots wrapped tight around the seed. The one picture even looks like a grubworm wrapped around the seed but it isn't. It's the baby root thick and gnarled around the seed like a little kid shivering in the cold.

I think there is a lot of this corn in the US this year. We had quite a cool and even cold April with some damage to the wheat crop. When farmers talk about not planting corn so it's first drink is a cold one, I think it is more than that.

The corn actually drinks the soil solution. That solution becomes very fluid when it rains enough to run water past the corn seed. The seed swells and that baby radial root takes up that fluid. Research shows little difference in the temperature of that fluid but there hasn't been much research done to corn that compares to what we have this year.

I think this took some bushels off our final yield. I am guessing 10 bushels but it could easily be over 20 bushels per acre lost to cold inhibition. This is another reason I demand good seed lots treated with the best treatment money can buy. From the digs I have done, the Poncho Votivo corn looks superior to everything else. Some of the Cruiser Maxx seed I have dug needs to be replanted.

I am not making a blanket statement that Poncho Votivo is superior but it looks better to me this year. Mucor fungus is rampant in cold notill soils and perhaps it is a little better on that pathogen. Captan was our very best defense against it and you don't see much of it anymore with the worker protection problem it had a few years ago.

There are many things interacting in our scenario but the main one is cold or fluctuating soil temperatures enough to cause this phenomena. This is why many farmers don't risk planting early or being "the first in the field." Timing planting to catch optimal growing conditions is impossible on today's big farms so many have to start early so then don't end up planting late. That and we are all impatient to some extent and not pulling the planting trigger early is impossible for some of us to do.

The big numbers of planted corn you read and hear about doesn't mean it's all in great shape. A good, atively growing stand is one thing and cold inhibition is a whole 'nother story. It hasn't been good growing weather here since late March and I know that is true in many other places.

The way we are going we will be lucky to get the corn up in May and will be planting soybeans in June.

This month is half over.


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