Abnormal ears found in cornfields


Tony Nye


Harvest progress was halted abruptly with several inches of rain last week. Only a limited amount of field work was seen by late week.

Looking forward, the National Weather Service suggests the following:

• The second half of the month will feature a return to above normal temperatures with below normal rainfall.

• Early indications are November will be a warmer month with conditions turning wetter especially in the north half of the state. The south half may stay at or below normal rainfall.

• There is some risk for a minor frost and freeze about the middle of the month or so. Some models are predicting in the area of October 10-20. If we do not see it then, it may wait until almost the end of the month then.

Now that harvest is well underway, producers all over Ohio are reporting pretty good yields for the most part — but it is not without some issues.

In recent weeks, Peter Thomison, Ohio State University agronomy corn specialist, has received several reports of abnormal ear development in corn fields which are near or at harvest maturity. Affected plants in these fields exhibit varying degrees of ear development with little or no kernel formation. Some ear shoots carry a barely visible rudimentary ear or only the short remnant of an ear.

Thomison has noted other symptoms include “dumbbell-shaped ears” (characterized by kernel formation at the base and tip of the ear but absent from the middle of the ear), “bouquet ears” (formed by small ears trying to develop from the same shank as the main ear), and shorter than normal husks.

The ear development problems are evident throughout fields with nearly all plants affected.

Prior to maturity, corn plants exhibiting abnormal ears generally appeared healthy with normal plant height and color.

However, at harvest, plants with abnormal ear symptoms usually turned purple due to an accumulation of anthocyanin pigments in the leaf and stalk tissue. The visual symptoms resemble those of ear development problems observed in the past – “Arrested Ears” and “Blunt Ear Syndrome.”

Several of the symptoms we have observed this year are similar to those associated with ear formation issues reported by agronomists at the University of Nebraska in 2016 – dumbbell shaped ears, multiple ears per node and short husks (https://cropwatch.unl.edu/2016/corn-ear-formation-issues-likely-correlated-loss-primary-ear-node).

For more on ear development problems and others ear abnormalities, check the following: “Troubleshooting Abnormal Corn Ears” available online at http://u.osu.edu/mastercorn/

Finally, I know many producers throughout the year stop by their agriculture offices. One of the familiar faces they have all gotten to know in Clinton County over many years of service is retiring.

According to Dale Hertlein, county executive director for the Farm Service Agency (FSA), Regina “Reggi” Vandervort will retire from her program technician position on Oct. 28 after more than 35 years with the agency.

After graduating from East Clinton High School and The Ohio State University, Reggi began her career with the Agricultural Stabilization & Conservation Service (ASCS), predecessor to the FSA. Reggi was hired by county executive director Howard Hackney and joined her father, Alfred Kendall, who also worked for ASCS/FSA as a field reporter for 50-plus years.

During the course of her career, Reggi has faithfully served the agricultural community of Clinton County and has distinguished herself within the Ohio Farm Service Agency as well. She has served periodically on several special committees and as a key program technician with regard to program eligibility issues for the FSA in the state of Ohio.

Reggi’s presence in the Clinton County FSA office will be sorely missed. Congratulations Reggi.

Tony Nye is the state coordinator for the Ohio State University Extension Small Farm Program and has been an OSU Extension educator for agriculture and natural resources for 29 years.

Tony Nye
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