Arrested Ears Update
Posted: September 11, 2012
The cause of these still seems a mystery that we are unable to diagnose and some of the typical causes such as a cold shock or adjuvant applications have been ruled out. We have also examined zinc deficiency and other plant nutrients but have been unable to attribute the disorder to those as well.
I have been working with Allan Berry, a crop consultant here in Centre and Clinton Counties. Allan has over a dozen cases this year on client’s fields and thinks the problem is growing. Many of the field sites have some relationship with limestone gravel or road dust. On one field, the producers plowed up an old roadbed that crossed a field. The soil has limestone gravel in the area where the roadbed crossed the field. In the area of the old road bed, the corn has developed to near normal height but has intervienal chlorosis on the earleaves and some upper leaves and dramatic arrested ear symptoms with little or no ear development. Soil tests show high calcium, a pH near 7.0 and normal zinc levels. Tissue tests of earleaves at silking were also near normal for both good and bad samples. Outside of the roadbed, corn is normal with good ear development. This is the second year with identical symptoms. Allan has some other fields that show similar symptoms on the edge of gravel farm lanes where he suspects dust is blowing into the field. I have been skeptical about the relationship with limestone, but am beginning to be a believer.
Last week Allan took me to a field in the Bald Eagle Valley where there is no native limestone, and showed me a situation where a farmer pushed snow outside of his driveway into the adjacent field, along with some limestone gravel. In the area with the limestone gravel, across from the driveway, we encountered severe arrested ears for two rows and then when the gravel in the soil disappeared, ears returned to normal. This has me thinking that there may be some relationship that we are unaware of.
I would be interested to know if anyone else has seen a relationship with arrested ears and limestone and if you have any good explanations for it. Our soil and plant tissue testing over the past several years has been inconclusive. Email me your thoughts and I will share them with Allan and the producers. We may try some corrective actions over the winter on some of the sites with repeated symptoms to try to address the issue.
- Professor of Agronomy