Assessing yield losses in corn due to frost

Author(s):

With scattered frosts predicted in parts of Ohio tonight, it may be time to consider the impact of frost injury to corn that has not yet achieved kernel “black layer”. Black layer is the stage at which kernel growth ceases and maximum kernel dry weight is achieved (also referred to as “physiological maturity”). According to the USDA/NASS (http://www.nass.usda.gov/) as of Sunday, Sept. 21, 27 percent of Ohio’s corn was mature, compared to 29 percent for last year and 38 percent for the five-year average.  Two percent of corn acreage was harvested, one percent behind last year and three percent behind the five-year average. 

For those growers with questions on the impact of frost damage on grain yield and maturation, one good source of information is “Handling Corn Damaged by Autumn Frost” NCH-57 by P.R.Carter and O. B. Hesterman available online athttp://www.ces.purdue.edu/extmedia/NCH/NCH-57.html. This publication includes information on the effect of frost on grain development and describes options for handling damaged corn. The following is an excerpt from the publication that addresses effects of frost injury on yield potential and whole plant and kernel moisture. 

The effect of frost damage to corn depends on the severity of defoliation, stalk damage, and stage of growth. Tables 1 and 2 provide yield loss and kernel moisture estimates resulting from premature plant death during grainfill. The tables summarize the findings of Minnesota researchers who defoliated plants to simulate frost damage at different kernel development stages.

Table 1: Yield Loss in Corn as a Result of Plant Defoliation at Three Kernel Development Stages.

Kernel Development Stage

Percent Grain Yield Reduction

Soft dough

34-36

Full dent

22-31

Late dent

4-8

Source: Afuakwa, J. J., and R. K. Crookston. 1984. Using the kernel milkline to visually monitor grain maturity in maize. Crop Science 24: 687-691.

 
 
 

Table 2: Whole Plant and Kernel Moisture of Corn at Four Kernel Development Stages.

Kernel Development Stage

Kernel

Whole Plant

Percent Moisture

Soft dough

62

>75

Full dent

55

70

Late dent

40

61

Physiological maturity (Black Layer*)

32

53

* Black Layer-indicates end of kernel growth and maximum kernel dry weight (physiological maturity).

 

Source: Afuakwa, J. J., and R. K. Crookston. 1984. Using the kernel milkline to visually monitor grain maturity in maize. Crop Science 24: 687-691.

 

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