By Dave Nanda, director of genetics and technology for Seed Consultants, Inc.
Some hybrids are more prone to drop ears than others. Now is a good time to walk your cornfields and notice if one hybrid is better than the others in this regard. This is an especially good year to make selections because of the heat and drought stress, which can also cause ear droppage.
• Check the shank attachment of each hybrid. Select those with the strong attachment with good ear retention characteristics.
• Select for hybrids which have greater tolerance to heat and drought stress. Yes, 2011 growing season was tough, but we can learn a lot from it for the future.
• Corn borers can also cause ear droppage in conventional hybrids. If you are going to use these types of hybrids for premium or other reasons, make sure to use the appropriate insecticides to control the corn borers during the first brood. Otherwise, my advice is to use the corn borer resistant BT hybrids. The BT trait really works great and protects the plants through out the life of the plant.
• Select for hybrids with tolerance to Diplodia ear rot, the whitish fungus that usually starts at the base of ears, and can cause ear droppage also. This disease also causes stalk rot. Learn from this growing season and let’s hope for a great 2012.