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Volunteer corn could challenge farms after derecho

Volunteer corn could challenge farms after derecho

Volunteer corn

The snow is covering downed and disked cornstalks, but Ethan Crow knows there may still be issues hiding there, thanks to the derecho that whipped across his central Iowa farm last August.

“For us, the biggest thing is that we have adapted some herbicide programs to help us get any volunteer corn,” says Crow, who farms near Marshalltown.

That is the biggest issue for many farmers, according to Iowa State University Extension agronomist Mark Licht. So many nearly mature cornfields were flattened that the corn was either left on the ground or was disked under last fall.

Luckily, Licht says, the weather was relatively good in the fall, so a great deal of field work was completed.

It’s possible that some farmers may even dig the old cultivator out of the shed to use on a few acres, Crow says. But most farmers don’t own a cultivator, so herbicide treatments will become more important.

And he says he is hearing reports of some farmers who normally would be planting corn on corn who this year may abandon that practice to better deal with the volunteer corn issue.

Licht says the derecho probably didn’t cause any major changes in nitrogen needs unless the farmer is switching from corn on corn to a corn-bean rotation. And the downed crop likely didn’t cause major changes in other fertility programs.

The massive wind storm doesn’t appear to have caused many major problems with cover crops, although it is possible some cover crops were seeded earlier than usual last fall. Licht says spring tiling and conservation work in fields shouldn’t be affected.

One silver lining may be a glut of cornstalks baled this year that could be helpful for livestock producers struggling with a shortage of hay.

“There’s a whole lot of cornstalk bales for sale,” Crow says.

CropWatch Weekly Update

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Gene Lucht is public affairs editor for Iowa Farmer Today, Missouri Farmer Today and Illinois Farmer Today.

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