Nebraska corn is getting busy in the fields.
Pollination is one of the most critical times of development as tassels at the top of cornstalks spill pollen onto silk at the ends of ears of corn.
When it comes to pollination and kernel development, hot and steamy -- as in temperatures consistently above 95 degrees during the day and 70 at night -- can be a turnoff, causing wilting and rapid kernel development detrimental to good yields.
Silk had emerged in about 33 percent of Nebraska’s corn crop as of Sunday, far ahead of the 12 percent on that date last year, according to the Monday crop report from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Agricultural Statistics Service.
The USDA rated 74 percent of Nebraska's corn good to excellent, 19 percent fair and only 7 percent poor to very poor.
Those ratings should only get better. This week, a low pressure system over the Great Lakes has pulled cold air down from northern Canada and made perfect weather for plant sex.
“This ought to be about as good as you can get,” said Roger Elmore, an extension cropping systems agronomist with the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.
On the price side, commodities have taken a beating. The USDA has predicted farmers will harvest 13.935 billion bushels of corn this fall, blowing past last year’s record crop. Cash grain prices offered by elevators in the Lincoln area Monday for corn ranged from $3.51 to $3.54 a bushel and the price for soybeans was $12.10 a bushel to $12.37.
Typically the hottest time of the year, temperatures during the first part of this week will be 10 to 20 degrees below normal and feel more like September throughout the Midwest, according to AccuWeather.com meteorologist Steve Travis.
The National Weather Service in Valley predicts highs in the upper 70s and lows in the 50s through Thursday in Lincoln.
State Climatologist Al Dutcher called the low temperatures unusual, but not unheard of.
“We get these cold breaks every now and then in the summertime,” he said. “Enjoy it. You get a break on your air conditioning for a couple days.”
Mercury will begin to rise slowly toward the end of the week, with the return of more typical July temperatures by Sunday.
“The biggest thing we’re facing right now is those acres that were replanted whether they will make it to this fall without incurring any hard freeze damage,” Dutcher said.
Hail, tornadoes and high winds have damaged many fields in Nebraska this year, but likely not enough to have a major impact on the state’s overall harvest, said Don Hutchens, director of the Nebraska Corn Board.
On Wednesday, severe storms dropped hail ranging from an inch to more than two inches in diameter over a broad area from just south of Valentine to the Kansas border, said Daniel Nietfeld, a meteorologist with the Weather Service in Valley.
But with the severe weather has come rains that have all but chased from the state drought that plagued producers the past couple of years. Fields that missed the severe weather are looking lush.
“As you drive across the state you see some of the prettiest corn and soybean fields that the U.S. has,” Hutchens said.