Hail Yes! Corn Can Survive a Pounding

May 19, 2010 07:00 PM

Rhonda Brooks, Farm Journal Technology & Special Projects Editor

Hail delivered a hard blow to Jeff Dierksheide's corn just over a week ago. Nearly 200 acres of his Bowling Green, Ohio, crop was left in tatters. Fortunately, Dierksheide is learning that appearances can be worse than reality at this stage of crop growth. 

"It looks bad, but I'm told it should still yield pretty well,” he says.

Farm Journal Associate Field Agronomist Missy Bauer explains that the growing point of the corn is typically underground in these early growth stages. "Even though the leaf tissue above ground is gone, the plant is still alive,” says Bauer, who based in south-central Michigan. "The question now is whether enough plants survived the storm and are healthy enough to produce a good crop?”
To answer that, Bauer recommends that you wait about three to five days after the storm and then, check for any new growth. She also suggests digging up a handful of surviving young corn plants, from several locations within the field. Split the stems and check growing points for damage. A healthy growing point will be firm and white to light green in color. A damaged growing point will be brown and soft or mushy.
Farmers should also make sure the surviving plant population per acre is high enough to produce a good crop, notes Paul Kassel, Iowa State University Extension Field Agronomist. Calculate population by taking a measure 1/1000 of an acre, based on row spacing, which equates to an acre (see Table 1). Then, count the number of live plants and multiply by 1,000. For example: 30 healthy plants equals an established plant population of 30,000. While optimum populations vary, University of Minnesota Extension recommends 29,000 to 31,000 plants per acre for most corn hybrids and locations in the northern Corn Belt.

Table 1. Length of row to equal 1/1000th of
an acre for various row widths*
Row spacing
Row Length
13 feet 1 inch
13 feet 6 inches
17 feet 5 inches
23 feet 9 inches
34 feet 10 inches

*Information provided courtesy of University of Minnesota Extension Service.
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