Most of western Kentucky is in a severe drought status and that severity is likely to spread to central Kentucky on the next report.

Most of the corn is going through tassel and pollination, which is well ahead of the five-year average, and the worst possible time to experience temperatures in the high 90s F (35 C or more).

The high temperatures and low humidity dry out pollen and silks faster, both of which need moisture for successful fertilization of the ovules.

In addition to the need for moisture for pollination, the corn plant simply needs more water. Corn around tasseling and silking demands about 0.3 inches (7.7 mm) per day. Most of our fields were at a water deficit prior to tasseling and the water deficit is increasing. The lack of water could lead to the abortion of kernels.

Dry conditions prior to tasseling often result in the tassel emergence and pollen drop before silk emergence. In many cases, the resulting ears may have a few kernels develop near the base of the ear, but very few to no kernels near the tip of the ear.

In other cases, the tassels may drop pollen before they are fully emerged from the whorl. If the silks are emerged, pollination may occur. If too much of the pollen is trapped in the whorl, then pollination will suffer.

Corn yield losses should be expected in most of these fields. The potential number of kernels was beginning to be determined somewhere around V8 growth stage. As the dry weather stressed the corn crop, the potential number of kernels dropped. Expected complications with pollination increases the probabilities of lower yields.

In some of the fields exhibiting the most severe drought stress conditions, farmers may want to look at salvage opportunities such as feeding the corn as a silage.

Proper ensiling requires the proper whole plant moisture (around 65 to 70 percent for most ensiling conditions). This season, whole plant moisture is more important than crop stage in deciding when to harvest.

(Just to the north, dry weather is also reducing yield potential in the Illinois corn crop. For a look at that situation, see Illinois corn, soybean crops deteriorating under droughty conditions. In Indiana, corn growers are also facing a drought and in many cases will have trouble meeting futures contract obligations. That story can be found here. Corn growers in Ohio have another problem. That’s trying to control weeds under dry conditions. See what the advice is in that situation by clicking here).