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Digital Corner

Mycotoxins in Corn for 2023 

By Dale Cowan

The 2023 cropping year was full of environmental challenges with a wide range in rainfall amounts, some areas receiving 4 times normal amounts across the trading area. One site I know of received 40 inches of rain since planting.  A slow accumulation of crop heat units (CHU). Accumulation of CHU started slow in May and never really caught up until well into October. Corn black layer typically occurs in mid to late September and some fields in 2023 black layered third week of October. This contributed to high kernel moistures, slow dry down leading to a delayed harvest.

Persistent rainfall during the tassel emergence and early silking period led to conditions conducive to the development of Gibberella Ear rots and subsequent production of the mycotoxin Deoxynivalenol (DON).

As harvest was delayed it became evident through testing corn with visible signs of Gibberella Ear Rot that higher levels of DON were present. End users of corn contract for No 2-yellow corn with very low to no DON. As a result, discounts were put in place to encourage delivery of clean corn. Commercial elevators had no choice but to follow the discount schedules. The elevator system is the middle link in a supply chain between farmers and end users.

Let’s look at what discount schedules looked like in 2023.

Below is the DON discount schedule and appropriate discounts applied based on DON level, yield and corn at $6.00 per bushel.



The distribution of DON tests indicating a significant number of samples below 3.1 ppm thereby avoiding discounts.

The question is how do we manage for DON and where do we go from here?

After 2018 a concerted effort was made by Seed Corn Companies to identify hybrids that were susceptible to Gibberella Ear Rots and either removed them from their line up or ranked then according to their susceptibility to make farmers aware of the risk.

  • Hybrid selection is key place to start to assess the risk of growing hybrids susceptible to ear rots and DON production.
  • Most seed guides will indicate a ranking of risk. 
  • Aiming for uniform crop emergence can go a long way to assure that the crop is in the rights stage of growth to receive protective fungicides for disease suppression
  • There are differences in hybrids but no hybrid is resistant to ear rots.
  • Protecting plant health: High yield environments are more susceptible to the risk of both, leaf pathogens and  Gibberella Ear Rot. In a year with ideal environmental; conditions for infection we have little choice but to apply protective fungicides to maintain yields and suppress DON.

Environmental conditions play a big role in making the decision to protect plant health. Persistent wet canopies caused by rainfall, dew, fog, high humidity create the environment for disease infection. In 2022 we saw minor amounts of Tar Spot and very low DON levels because it was much dryer during the critical growth phase of grain fill.

Regular crop scouting and paying attention to weather forecasts and using some of the Disease Forecasting tools will be necessary going forward. Alleviating any additional abiotic and biotic stresses will be a prudent activity to do. Control what you can control. Lean on your trust advisor(s) to help you along the way. 


Harvest Results-Final Crop Assessments

By Graham McLean

As we finish up harvest in both beans and corn it would be a great idea to capture some important management practices that proved beneficial this year in both yields and late season plant health.

Some of the field yield results in some areas have been below average this year. There has been tremendous yield variability in the same field. Some fields have a reasonable explanation to why yields ended up where they are, some fields’ yields are not that self-explanatory.

With record rainfall this year, soil type has had a major influence on yields. It looks like sands and loams are the winner this year versus the clays. With the wet soils comes phytophthora and root rots in soybeans, sudden death syndrome and soybean cyst nematodes all contributing to plenty of thin and bare spots.

Stand variability is another factor in this year’s corn fields. With the uneven emergence after planting and the root rots we saw causing a reduction in harvest population. Barren plants were noticeable as was poor stalk health.

There are definitely soybean variety differences showing up this year. Varieties that had good track records are succumbing to environmental pressures. Don’t disregard the yields as being related to a poor variety this year. Contact us to see data from other sites.  

Which leads me to the last factor. Based on the yield response we are seeing in most corn fields; fungicide application had a large benefit. With the amount of Tar Spot in this area that came in late impacted on the grain fill period. It looks like a applying the appropriate fungicides for both ear mold suppression and preserving of yields was a wise choice. 

There are many management practices to consider. Managing Nitrogen as system, weed control management, hybrid and variety selection for multiple traits and a good plant health program are becoming a prerequisite. When there seems to be a lot of factors out of our control the need to focus on what we can control becomes even greater.

If you want help with a review of this year and crop planning for 2024, we are close by. We would be glad to have the conversation.


Continuing Education

by Mike Vennema

As the weather changes and field work winds down for the year, many will be looking forward to the fresh smell of moving soil in the spring. The months ahead may include some time in the shop, on projects or maintenance, or perhaps some time to enjoy a vacation whether it be in the snow or on a beach. It is also important to schedule in some time to attend grower meetings or a local ag show or conference to stay engaged and up to date. Agriculture is ever changing and there is so much information, products and technology that it can be hard to sort through all the noise. Knowing how, when and where they fit best can be difficult. 

Resistant weeds are also on the rise. Water hemp is spreading and palmer amaranth has been confirmed in the province. Do you know what they look like, or if your current practices provide sufficient control of such pests? When crop plans are made for the spring, including seed purchases, it helps to know what potential weed problems exist on the farm to help avoid any major infestations, that could potentially be uncontrollable if the right seed traits were not selected to give effective options.

There is also a host of new biological crop enhancers and stimulants, growth regulators and fertilizer additives, all of which come with big claims that they are going to do wonderful things, which can be hard to buy into. Before shrugging them off as snake oils, consider looking at data, asking some questions and finding out which products, under which situations could provide value or be a good fit for your crop needs. Most fields receive an in-crop herbicide application and bio stimulants are good at reducing stress cause by this as an example. There may be opportunities to pick up a few more bushels or tons with a pass your already making by having a closer look at some of the many available products.

Technology has become easier to use and more affordable to purchase. If your combine is recording your yields, what are you doing with the data? What can be learned from this information and how can it be put to use? It may be easier than thought. Take the time to utilize and make sense of all this information and put it to work on your farm.  Now is the time to figure out what opportunities may exist with equipment you already own, or find simple ways to add a new layer of information to what you currently have. Climate Fieldview is a great addition to yield mapping.

Stay up to date and be sure to ask your Crop Specialist about resistant weeds, bio stimulants, Fieldview, and all the latest information on relevant topics while you make plans for the spring. Or better yet, attend a meeting or conference and come up with some new questions of your own. Never stop learning. 

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