Advanced Agrilytics

Corn Production Impacted by Significant Variables in 2021 Growing Season

Corn fields across the Midwest felt the impact of changing conditions this summer, according to Advanced Agrilytics Precision Agronomist Erika Parker. In her territory across east-central Illinois, she says a lot of corn growers were in good shape until mid-summer rains impacted growth.

“By the end of June, many of my customers experienced really big rains – somewhere between 4 to 10 inches at a time, and it was too much, too fast,” says Parker.

Those heavy rains brought nitrogen loss challenges in corn fields, where water-logged fields in Parker’s region began showing signs of denitrification and overall water stress. It was an opportunity to observe how nitrogen management tools impacted plant performance.

“We saw variable rate nitrogen and variable rate nitrogen protectant really show benefits in my area,” says Parker. “I wish we had more of it out there this season, because it made a real difference this summer.”

On many farms, disease issues were a struggle as well. Tar spot, typically a late-season fungal disease that infects and damages corn leaves, rolled through a wide portion of the eastern Corn Belt this summer and left a mark on many fields.

“Even in areas where we had seen tar spot previously, it came earlier than expected this year and that made a difference,” says Parker. “It showed up in large hot spots by the end of July. In addition to heavy tar spot pressure, August brought hot conditions during both days and nights, which caused significant stress on the corn plants.”

She says there was enough moisture to keep the disease thriving, all while the corn plant’s defenses were dwindling as it tried to fulfill its mission to complete grain fill. This impact on plant health and stress level began to shut down the processes that influence yield performance.

Fungicide applications helped mitigate significant loss in many fields, according to Parker. In some fields two applications proved to be beneficial, which is not typical across most of Illinois and neighboring corn-growing regions. By the time summer came to an end, most farmers could see the impact of tar spot in fields and one of the key influences seemed to be timing of the fungicide application.

Farmers interested in learning more about the impact of sub-acre variables on their farming operation should reach out to a local agronomy expert via

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