University of Illinois agronomist Emerson Nafziger says he doesn't want to raise a general alarm about the Illinois corn crop that is forecast to be the third-highest on record, but he has some concern about shortened corn ears that are being reported in more fields than expected.
"Though the appearance of the corn crop is good in most fields where water has not been severely limiting over the past month, I reported in an online "Alert" two weeks ago that ears in some fields are shorter than expected. The phenomenon appears to be widespread, and it may be more common in fields that were planted and then pollinated relatively early," says Nafziger.
He says there may be more than one cause of shortened ears. "The most widespread problem is ears that are "nosed back," with unfilled cob tips. Cobs appear to be normal length," says Nafziger. "The outer end of the cob is without kernel remnants, indicating that fertilization of tip kernels failed. Between this area and the developing kernels, we often find remnants of aborted kernels, where fertilization took place and kernels started to accumulate dry matter, and then stopped. Aborted kernels range in size from small, empty seed coats to kernels perhaps one-fourth the size of normal kernels, and with some visible contents, often with yellow color."