Fundamentally Speaking
Joel Karlin DTN Contributing Analyst

Thursday 07/24/14

MN Corn Ear/Plant Ratio

There has been a lot of talk recently that many corn fields throughout the Midwest are developing with two vs. the normal one ear per plant.

This sometimes happens at the end of the rows or in fields with low plant populations.

Furthermore, often the second ear does not fully develop being much smaller and with fewer kernels.

This year, however it is rather commonplace to have two viable ears and if growing conditions continue favorable, i.e. decent rains and moderate temperatures then that second ear may develop into something substantial as opposed to the usual nubbin.

There is not a lot of literature on what exact environmental conditions aid a corn plant in developing two viable ears though common theories advanced include plenty of nutrients, water, and space for each stalk.

Recall years such as 1992, 1994, and 2004 where incidences of double eared corn plants were quite common enhancing production to such an extent that record national corn yields were established by wide margins.

Common to those seasons were well below normal average July temperatures, a situation again noted this year.

This graphic is a scatterplot showing the corn ear/plant ratio going across the x-axis for the state of Minnesota vs. average July temperatures going up the y-axis in degrees Fahrenheit.

Though not a perfect fit, the r squared indicates that July temperatures explain about half the variability in the Minnesota corn ear/plant ratio.

Note the coolest season 1992 resulted in the highest ratio while hot July's such as 1988 and 2012 saw very low ratios.

Through the first three weeks of July, MN temperatures have averaged about 6-8 degrees below the average 69.1 degrees suggesting this year's ear/plant ratio could be quite high and note that reports of double eared corn is being seen throughout much of Iowa and Illinois.


Posted at 9:34AM CDT 07/24/14
Comments (4)
two ears in a turned dry end of season worse than one. plant had too big idea like everybody else looks likley from here
Posted by andrew mohlman at 4:17PM CDT 07/24/14
I don;t know what part of the state your seeing these two ears,in sc minnesota,just a few fields that were planted early are even tasseling,and theres alot that won;t till mid Aug.,,and this is a very laege area this is happening to.Ive heard on the radio talk of 180,,totally not happening,if no frost till Oct 15,i;ll go with 149,,a frost the 20th of sept.,many fields won;t make grain,,
Posted by TERRY PIOSKE at 9:08AM CDT 07/25/14
As of July 27th, 61 % of the corn in Minnesota was tasseling. Thats plenty of acres to get a good idea of how many stalks have two ears.
Posted by BURNELL KELLER at 7:31PM CDT 07/28/14
A major frost event would be needed to change to fundamental outlook for the corn market. A model was developed to look at the possible frost impact on North Dakota corn yields and resulting reduction to US production. There appears to be about a 50% chance (1 in 2 years) of a yield reduction of 15% from lower test weight. This would reduce US production by about 0.8 bushels per acre. The model indicates a 25% chance (1 in 4 years) of a 20% North Dakota yield reduction and a 10% chance (1 in 10 years) of a 50% yield reduction. The highest level of damage would result in US production decline of around 3 bushels per acre. This is less than the "talked about" increase in US yield estimates when compared with the July WADSE yield projections for the 2014-15 marketing year. So the ending balance would likely end up higher then the current "street" estimates with the generally "good" growing condition of the US corn crop even with a major killing frost in North Dakota. Another state, like Minnesota, Michigan or Wisconsin, or a 1974 like event would be needed to have severe enough damage to change the US balance sheet enough to rally prices to the pre- June 30th level. Frost damage (light corn) does result in increased usage for ethanol plant and feed consumption. That increased consumption is hard to quantify - at least for us - and is not included in the balance sheet calculations. An ethanol plant that uses corn with a 20% reduction in test weight, from frost damage, might be required to use 11% more corn by weight or 38% by volume to net the same production target. The "light" corn would produce more ddgs - may be as much as 40% more than frost free corn - thus changing feed consumption and may be exports. Many corn fed species will require more pounds of frost damaged feed to have the same gain as "normal" grain but that may be partly or fully met by more available ddgs. The "market" is generally "slow" to see the increased demand side of frost damaged corn but it seems a wide spread event will be needed to cause much "stronger" prices in the long run. Freeport, IL
Posted by Freeport IL at 11:55AM CDT 07/31/14
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