Drive-bys aren’t the way to assess cornfields this year, at least not in south-central Wisconsin and specifically not in a 24-acre field that’s part of the USDA-ARS U.S. Dairy Forage Research Center’s farm near Prairie du Sac.

Drought slowed, stopped or completely thwarted kernel development on some ears while other ears filled out pretty well, says Rick Walgenbach of the field in question. The research center’s farm manager and agronomist says the 95-day hybrid, planted April 27, was hit hard by high temps and drought.

“I was concerned about our corn silage inventory and wanted to get some corn in so we could chop it if we needed to supplement our last year’s corn silage before we had this year’s done,” he says of his reason for planting the hybrid. “It came up and looked pretty good until the dry weather hit. And, driving by, it looks like a pretty good stand.

“But I went into an area of the field where I thought it was representative of the better growth in the field. It surprised me a little bit when I started taking the ears off and looking at them.” The five ears pictured are part of his sampling and pretty well typify what’s in the field, Walgenbach says.

Some of its knoll areas are in even worse shape while other fields are in better condition, probably because they pollinated before the heat wave, he guesses.

Yet the five ears should warn growers to take a closer look at their own fields and maybe even sit tight before chopping, Walgenbach says.

“Joe Lauer, who is our (University of Wisconsin) corn Extension specialist – he’s advising farmers to be a little patient and not cut it because it’s going to be a lot wetter than you think. And he’s right.”

The grain on normally developed corn provides quite a bit of dry matter, so corn chopped for silage with little or no grain, even if it’s brown, will be more of a challenge to harvest and store, Walgenbach says.

Producers may also want to moisture-test their corn more often than usual, he suggests.

“Especially this year, it would be good to get out and walk through the fields in areas that represent those fields. Most farmers know where their good and bad areas are. They should take a look at what kind of kernels are on those cobs.”