What Happens Within the Corn
|Growth stage ||Evapotranspiration|
inches per day
|Percent yield loss per
day of stress (min-ave-max)|
|Seedling to 4 leaf|| |
|4 leaf to 8 leaf|| |
|8 leaf to 12 leaf|| |
|12 leaf to 16 leaf|| |
2.1 - 3.0 - 3.7
|16 leaf to tasseling|| |
2.5 - 3.2 - 4.0
3.0 - 6.8 - 8.0
|Blister (R2)|| |
3.0 - 4.2 - 6.0
|Milk (R3)|| |
3.0 - 4.2 - 5.8
3.0 - 4.0 - 5.0
|Dent (R5)|| |
2.5 - 3.0 - 4.0
|Maturity (R6)|| |
Derived from Rhoads and Bennett (1990) and Shaw (1988)
stress around flowering and pollination delays silking, reduces silk length, and
inhibits embryo development after pollination. Moisture stress during this time
reduces corn grain yield 3 to 8 percent for each day of stress (Table
1). Moisture or heat stress interferes with synchronization of pollen shed
and silk emergence. Moisture stress may delay silk emergence until pollen shed
is nearly or completely finished. During periods of high temperatures, low relative
humidity, and inadequate soil moisture, exposed silks may dessicate and become
non-receptive to pollen germination.
Two methods commonly are used to assess the success or failure of pollination: counting attached silks and counting developing ovules. Each potential kernel on the ear has a silk attached to it. Once a pollen grain "lands" on an individual silk, it quickly germinates and produces a pollen tube that grows the length of the silk to fertilize the ovule in 12 to 28 hours. Within 1 to 3 days after a silk is pollinated and if fertilization of the ovule is successful, the silk will detach from the developing kernel. Unfertilized ovules will still have attached silks. By carefully unwrapping the husk leaves from an ear and then gently shaking the ear, the silks from the fertilized ovules will readily drop off. Developing ovules (kernels) appear as watery blisters (the "blister" stage of kernel development) about 10 to 14 days after fertilization of the ovules. The proportion of fertilized ovules (future kernels) on an ear indicates the progress and success of pollination.
Silk elongation begins near the butt of the ear and progresses up toward the tip. The tip silks are typically the last to emerge from the husk leaves. If ears are unusually long (many kernels per row), the final silks from the tip of the ear may emerge after all the pollen has been shed. Another cause of incomplete kernel set is abortion of fertilized ovules. Aborted kernels are distinguished from unfertilized ovules in that aborted kernels had actually begun development. Aborted kernels will be shrunken and mostly white.
stress during grain-filling increases leaf dying, shortens the grain-filling period,
increases lodging and lowers kernel weight. Water stress during grain-filling
reduces yield 2.5 to 5.8 percent with each day of stress (Table
1). Kernels are most susceptible to abortion during the first two weeks following
pollination. Kernels near the tip of the ear generally are last to be fertilized
and are less vigorous than the rest, so they are most susceptible to abortion.
Once kernels have reached the dough stage of development, further yield losses
will occur mainly from reductions in kernel dry weight accumulation.
Severe moisture stress that continues into the early stages of kernel development (blister and milk stages) can easily abort developing kernels. Severe stress during dough and dent stages of grain fill decreases grain yield primarily due to decreased kernel weights and is often caused by premature black layer formation in the kernels. Once grain has reached physiological maturity, stress will have no further physiological effect on final yield (Table 1). Stalk and ear rots, however, can continue to develop after corn has reached physiological maturity and indirectly reduce grain yield through plant lodging. Stalk rots are seen more often when ears have high kernel numbers and have been predisposed to stress, especially moisture stress.
Premature death of leaves results in yield losses because the photosynthetic 'factory' output is greatly reduced. The plant may remobilize stored carbohydrates from the leaves or stalk tissue to the developing ears, but yield potential will still be lost. Death of all plant tissue prevents any further remobilization of stored carbohydrates to the developing ear. Whole plant death that occurs before normal black layer formation will cause premature black layer development, resulting in incomplete grain fill and lightweight, chaffy grain. Grain moisture will be greater than 35 percent, requiring substantial field drydown before harvest.
1 - Corn leaf curling under dry, moisutre stressed conditions.
Photo courtesy of Adam Hayes/OMAFRA.
|Author:||Joe Lauer - Corn Specialist/University of Wisconsin in Madison|
|Creation Date:||14 July 2005|
|Last Reviewed:||14 July 2005|