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updated: 7/13/2011 12:44 PM

Windy storm beat, didn't kill, corn crop

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  • A single stalk of corn stands upright in a flattened patch in a field on Keslinger Road near Dauberman Road in Maple Park. Several cornfields had patches of flattened stalks after Monday's brief storm.

       A single stalk of corn stands upright in a flattened patch in a field on Keslinger Road near Dauberman Road in Maple Park. Several cornfields had patches of flattened stalks after Monday's brief storm.
    Laura Stoecker | Staff Photographer

  • Flattened corn in a field on Keslinger Road near Dauberman Road in Maple Park after the storm that roared through Monday morning.

       Flattened corn in a field on Keslinger Road near Dauberman Road in Maple Park after the storm that roared through Monday morning.
    Laura Stoecker | Staff Photographer

 
 

Monday's storm, with its 60-plus mph winds, didn't just fell trees and power lines.

It also did a number on some cornfields, flattening stalks.

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But local sweet corn growers in Kane and McHenry counties say those looking forward to the annual summer treat, which starts showing up this month, don't have to worry.

And for field corn, it becomes more of a production hassle.

"The middle sweet corn got laid over pretty good," said Gary Pack, a partner in the Twin Gardens Farm in Harvard. They farm about 400 acres of Mirai, a super-sweet corn sold at farmers markets throughout the Chicago area.

Since they handpick the corn, however, they can pull ears from bent stalks.

Pack is more worried about the 200 acres of seed corn fields they tend. These plants are used to produce hybrid seed for next year's planting, as well as sale to the public. The corn is starting to tassel, and with the plants blowing onto each other, he worries it could lead to self-pollination of the female plants. That would make the resultant seed unmarketable, he said.

Plus, it will just be more difficult for his workers to detassel, he said.

Karen Stojan, of Stojan Farms in Maple Park, said the family wasn't able to get in the fields Monday to assess conditions, as the fields were too wet. She did expect to see flattening.

The storm will have affected their first planting, which is now tasseling and setting ears, because it is the tallest, she said. And again, they handpick the sweet corn. "It will be a tangled mess to go through," Stojan said.

Like many sweet corn producers, they plant in succession, every week to 10 days, to keep the corn rolling in throughout the mid- to late summer.

Field corn

Field corn -- the stuff used to make packaged food and corn syrup, feed livestock, create ethanol and glues and many other things -- may withstand flattening better, because its stalks are tougher than that of sweet corn, said Joe White, president of the Kane County Farm Bureau. The stalks have to be tougher, because they must remain upright as the corn dries on the stalk. Sweet corn, on the other hand, is picked when stalks are green.

White saw flattened corn Monday west of Kaneville, and on Dauberman Road near Maple Park.

This spring's rainy weather may have contributed to uprooting, as the corn didn't have to put down deep roots to find water, he said. And since some tassels may have been ruined, pollination -- and therefore, yield -- will be reduced, he said.

Corn that is merely flattened -- not broken off -- will bounce back, White said. But it continues to grow crooked, or "goosenecked," he said. And that causes a pain in the farmer's neck at harvest time.

Harvesters are designed to pick from nice straight rows of upright corn, not stuff pointing every which way. Unruly corn clogs the machinery, slowing the harvest, White said.

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