Corn Production During a Drier, Warmer Spring

Planting risks

Warmer and drier conditions may present a challenge to dryland corn growers, especially because of their reliance on adequate rainfall.

Warmer soils promote vigorous germination, aggressive growth, and fewer seedling diseases and nematode problems.

If the field is grazed by cattle up to the day of planting, a soil insecticide should be applied to prevent seedling damage.


  • Dryland corn growers should consider delaying planting to capitalize on later rainfall to ensure higher yields.

Insect risks

In drier, warmer conditions, growers typically deal with increased populations of stinkbugs, mainly on crops grown within reduced tillage systems, planted into grassy winter crops or weeds.

Lesser cornstalk borer damage is common on corn planted in lighter soils, especially if this corn is planted late in fields where vegetation has been tilled under immediately before planting.

Chinch bugs are another challenge in drier and warmer springs, especially in reduced tillage corn planted into grassy winter crops or weeds.

Southern corn rootworm and cutworms are a risk in fields where the cover crop or winter-grazing grasses have not been killed 30 days before planting.

Southern corn rootworm is a problematic pest in corn independent of the climatic conditions.


  • Additional scouting is needed.
  • Terminate cover crops two to three weeks before planting.
  • Use higher rate of insecticide seed treatments on corn planted in high-risk fields.
  • Plant early to reduce soil insect problems.
  • If the field is grazed by cattle up to the day of planting, apply a high rate of insecticide seed treatment or a broad spectrum soil insecticide at planting to prevent seedling damage. 

Disease risks

Drier, warmer spring conditions increase the risk of charcoal rot.

Growers face a greater likelihood of southern rust outbreaks. The risk is greater in lower tier counties of the Southeast, which are likely to encounter southern rust in varying degrees from year to year and at much higher levels than upper tier counties.

Root-knot nematodes may remain active for longer periods in late fall and winter. They are also likely to increase in numbers and to become active sooner in the next growing season.


  • Reduce the risk of charcoal rot by using no-till or strip till on early planted corn.
  • Scout for southern rust outbreaks beginning at tasseling, and treat as needed with a fungicide.
  • During the fall or early winter, collect soil samples for a nematode assay, especially in fields previously cropped to corn or cotton with a history of root-knot nematode problems. Fields with high nematode populations should be treated with a nematicide.
  • Use nematicides on nonirrigated corn to ensure a more robust root system. Experiment with nematicides on some fields to determine if they are viable on a wider scale.
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