Corn School: Blunt Ears, Mould and Sprouting Spell Trouble for Grain Quality

As summer turns to fall in Ontario, the drought conditions that parched corn crops across the province has been replaced by high moisture and high humidity with continued sunshine.

That doesn’t bode well for grain quality as harvest approaches, says Pride Market Agronomist Ken Currah. In this episode of Real Agriculture Corn School, Currah looks at a number of challenges farmers are facing as the combines get ready to roll after a dry summer meets a wet, sticky fall.

In the video, the first trouble Currah tackles is Blunt Ear Syndrome in corn or “beer can ear.” As he describes, the ears look normal – full girth with 18 to 20 rows – but they are uncharacteristically short, resembling a beer can. The prevalence of the condition is likely the result of a cold snap around June 9, combined with cool soils after planting, explains Currah. “Blunt Ear Syndrome points to a specific stress, not a lingering stress over a duration of time like we experienced through drought.”

Ear moulds are also popping up as high humidity lingers and the thermometer continues to reach for the high 20s with intense sunlight. “These conditions aren’t doing us any favours in preserving grain quality and slowing mould growth.”

He notes that Western Bean Cutworm has also been prevalent in Ontario and damaged ear tips are highly susceptible to mould growth. He believes vomitoxin levels could be high this fall so feed buyers will likely be wary and test extensively.

Sprouted kernels on cobs are also widespread in the crop. These are the product of aborted kernels due to drought that still have viable embryos. With the arrival of abundant moisture and high temperatures, these tipped kernels are now sprouting. Currah says growers should watch for sprouting at the bottom of the ear, but in general, the condition is more of eyesore than an issue and shouldn’t pose problems for combining.

Click here for more Corn School episodes.

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