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Healthy corn crop limited by drought in some locations

FIRST combine with corn at sunset

FIRST field managers said this was one of the better years they’ve seen in quite a while in terms of management and disease impact.

While drought headlined the season in many Midwestern areas, that meant disease wasn’t nearly as prevalent around the region.

When examining the Farmers’ Independent Research of Seed Technologies (FIRST) corn yield results in 2022, field managers said this was one of the better years they’ve seen in quite a while in terms of management and disease impact.

“The only issue we saw was a little tar spot, but I don’t think it was early enough to affect yields,” Jason Beyers, FIRST manager in northern Illinois, said. “We didn’t have hardly any lodging to deal with. Stalk quality was really good across the board. Our cool August hindered test weight the most. The lack of heat in August really slowed things down.”

Drought wasn’t as prevalent in Beyers’ region. He noted that only one location — Dwight, Illinois — suffered throughout the year.

“Every place but one had ample amounts of rain and had good crops. The only one that suffered was in the Joliet area,” Beyers said. “That corn over there was maybe 5-foot tall. That suffered, but everywhere else had phenomenal yields.”

In the Illinois trials, Dwight was the poorest performer of the bunch with a 206.8 bushel per acre average, but other regions were able to post at least 230 bushels per acre, led by several locations above 270.

“It took a little longer to harvest because of the quantity, but that’s a good thing,” Beyers said.

Randy Meinsma, who handles the southern Iowa region of FIRST test results, said variability was prevalent in his region this year.

“It was all about location, location, location,” he said. “It depended on where you were and who caught the showers. There were spots three miles away that had 40-bushel difference and they were the same hybrids.”

The drought could be felt in the western and southern portions of Iowa, with multiple sites picking up fewer than 160 bushels per acre. While the yields were disappointing in those areas, Meinsma said one silver lining was it made for a quick season.

“Dry down was so fast this year,” he said. “Last year I got done the day before Thanksgiving, but this year we finished the second of November.”

Missouri also had wide variability with locations such as Cairo and Maryville each averaging more than 275 bushels per acre, but nearby Greentop only pulling in 181 bushels per acre this season.

“We had some extremely dry pockets,” said Bill Schelp, FIRST field manager in Missouri. “The west central part of Missouri and areas that are normally the last that show drought stress were low yielders. Even with the drought areas, Maryville and Cairo had record harvests in some areas.”

An early start helped Schelp get a good crop in some locations, he said, particularly in the northwest region. Shortly after planting on early April 22, rains kept many farmers out of the field until mid-May. Even with dry weather coming in, Schelp said it was a good year for crops without many other yield drags.

“The crop was really healthy this year for what it was this year,” he said. “Our weed pressure was limited. It was pretty clean across the board.”

Full results for the FIRST corn field tests can be found online at bit.ly/3E6c23O.

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