Corn growers smile in June rains; haymakers fret at few sunny days

Duane Dailey
Senior Writer
University of Missouri Cooperative Media Group

July 02, 2014

COLUMBIA, Mo. - June, noted for the start of the hot, dry days of summer, became a spring-rain month this year.

All grasses, including corn, continued to grow. That was the talk of a weekly teleconference by University of Missouri Extension agronomists, Tuesday, July 1.

"Corn is tasseling early all across the state," said Brent Myers, MU Extension corn specialist. "It's an awesome year for growing corn."

Pat Guinan, MU Extension climatologist, set the stage: "June was a wet month. Most of Missouri had over 5 inches of rain, with a record 14 inches at Unionville in north Missouri."

Guinan's map showed heaviest rains, about 12 inches, in a band of counties along the Iowa state line, and down the Kansas state line to south of Kansas City.

Big rains, 7 to 10 inches, covered far beyond Missouri across the Corn Belt. "Heavy rains covered Kansas, into Nebraska, across Iowa and north into Minnesota and the Dakotas. Departures above normal ranged from 4 to 6 inches."

It's unusual for the entire Corn Belt to be wet the first of July, Guinan said.

Rains and cool weather favor pollination of a corn crop. Often a heat wave with no rain dries pollen falling from atop the stalk onto silks on corn ears at mid-stalk.

Each future kernel on an ear extends a silk to pick up a pollen grain to fill the cob with corn.

"I'm not getting many calls about problems with corn," Myers said.

The downside of plentiful rain has been flooded fields. However, an area in the central Ozarks around Lebanon, Missouri, remains dry, Guinan said.

A cool front on June 30 brought more rains across central and northern Missouri.

Forecast for the week including the Fourth of July calls for no rain and mild temperatures. The next week light rain, about half an inch, returns.

A huge high-pressure zone from prairie provinces of Canada brings lower than normal temperatures. "Highs will be in the 70s with some 80s," Guinan said. "It will be September weather."

Moderate temperatures come when much of the corn crop will set ears for fall harvest.

Grass and hay growers see a needed late growth of forage, said Rob Kallenbach, MU Extension specialist. "Usually in June we see daily growth of 30 pounds of dry matter per acre. This year, June growth hit over 100 pounds per day per acre."

A big problem becomes finding dry days to cut and bale hay, Kallenbach said. "That raises concern about hay quality."

Regional agronomists reported increased use of balage to store forage. Hay is cut at high moisture content, baled and wrapped in plastic before it dries. That creates silage in a bag.

"Ensiled hay makes excellent winter feed," Kallenbach said.

Wet weather created growing conditions for ergot in seed heads. The fungus can remain toxic in baled hay, causing health problems when fed next winter.

Removing fescue seed heads before they emerge is the key to good grazing-and quality hay, Kallenbach said. That can be done by early grazing or mowing.

Answering a question about using a brush hog to remove seed heads, Kallenbach said he hasn't seen much of that. "It's best to graze the first-cutting fescue and then harvest regrowth for hay. That makes hay high in protein and total digestive nutrients."

Regional extension agronomists who help growers with crop and forage questions are in county MU Extension centers.

Source: Brent Myers, 573-882-4257; Pat Guinan, 573-882-5908; Robert Kallenbach, 573-884-2213