Managing Corn Production in an Expected Dry Growing Season

The weather the last few years has been difficult to say the least. Unpredictable rainfall events and rainfall totals seem to be a common theme. Unfortunately, we cannot gaze into our crystal ball to know exactly how the weather may perform, but what we do know is that weather can be patterned and follow trends. Dry weather patterns are not easy to navigate; however, there are a few things that a corn grower can do to prepare and help to manage their crop for a projected dry growing season.

Product Selection

  • Choosing the right corn product for the right acre is crucial, and your local Channel Seedsman is there to help. When going into a projected dry growing season, extra attention should be placed on product drought tolerance ratings. Choosing a product with strong drought tolerance scores with proven local performance can help preserve yield potential if conditions get tough. If feasible, planting a variety of corn maturities and spreading out planting dates can help broaden the pollination window, helping to lower risk across the farm during the crop’s critical stage of development.1

Correct Population

  • With moisture being at an absolute premium in dry growing conditions, targeting the correct planting population should be paramount. Planting a higher population rate than needed in a moisture-limited environment could add additional water stress. Growers should always follow the recommended seeding rate for Channel® brand seed products that Channel Seedsman can provide. Channel Seedsman can assess the ear flex for a product, review yield targets and potential for a set soil type and analyze potential seeding rates to help alleviate water stress. 

Reduce Tillage

  • Reducing the amount of tillage can help reduce moisture lost to evaporation, and each pass should be scrutinized. Limiting tillage as close to planting as possible is another possible consideration. Furthermore, it is important to be mindful of compaction as it can restrict root growth and a plant’s ability to take up moisture and nutrients.

Weed Control

  • Competition for moisture, nutrients, and sunlight is heightened when going into a dry growing season. A simple way to help ensure you are making the best use of moisture, nutrients, and sunlight is to control weeds early and keep them controlled. Check with your Bayer Crop Protection representative to help in choosing the right herbicide program for the upcoming, potentially dry growing season.

Disease and Stalk Integrity

  • When going into a dry growing season, crop disease doesn’t usually come to mind. However, it is important to remain vigilant and continue scouting. Disease can cause unneeded stress in an already stressed crop. Within the disease triangle, a susceptible product, favorable environment, and pathogen must all be present to have successful disease infection. The diseases that come to mind in a drier year are Fusarium Crown Rot, Red Root Rot, and subsequent stalk rots. These types of root rots are especially prevalent when the season begins wet before turning dry. When plants become stressed from disease, moisture, or lack of nutrients in a dry year, stalk integrity should be mindful when scouting. Plants in extreme environments tend to cannibalize their stalks to try to put all their reserves towards the ear. Fungicides for plant health and stalk integrity have proven to be helpful in stressed growing conditions.

Irrigation Planning

  • For growers that have irrigation equipment to supplement rainfall, it is important to be prepared and efficient with irrigation. To improve irrigation efficiency, test your sprinkler application uniformity and check for leaks, use soil moisture sensors to be better informed on irrigation scheduling, use a form of irrigation scheduling, or document each irrigation application, and low-pressure conversion.2

Nitrogen Management

  • The most efficient nitrogen application is one close to the corn crop’s highest need for nitrogen. Fall applied anhydrous ammonia, manure applications, spring applied anhydrous ammonia, spring applied urea or urea-ammonium nitrate (UAN), and starter fertilizers are just some of the many ways nitrogen can be applied. Applying any urea containing fertilizer to the soil surface during warm, dry, windy conditions capitalizes on the potential for nitrogen volatilization losses.3 Incorporating broadcasted UAN to reduce volatilization, sidedressing in season, or starter fertilizer are application methods to consider. Some methods work better in various soil types, farming practices, or growing regions and it is important to use the practice that works best, but when going into a dry year, applying nitrogen as close to when the crop needs it might be worth reviewing.

Lauren Botine, M.S.


1Shaw, R.H., and Newman, J.E. 1988. Water stress in the corn crop. NCH-18. Climate & Weather. National Corn Handbook Purdue University Extension.

2Nelson, A. and Becker, T.  2021. With dry conditions, here’s how irrigators can use water more efficiently. Minnesota Crop News. University of Minnesota Extension.

3Beegle, D. 2015. Nitrogen application in warm, dry weather. PennState Extension. Pennsylvania State University.

Websites Verified 18 Jan 2023

Legal Statements

ALWAYS READ AND FOLLOW PESTICIDE LABEL DIRECTIONS. Performance may vary, from location to location and from year to year, as local growing, soil and weather conditions may vary. Growers should evaluate data from multiple locations and years whenever possible and should consider the impacts of these conditions on the grower’s fields.

Channel® and the Arrow Design® and Seedsmanship At Work® are registered trademarks of Channel Bio, LLC. Bayer and Bayer Cross are registered trademarks of Bayer Group. All other trademarks are the property of their respective owners. ©2023 Bayer Group. All rights reserved.

This browser is no longer supported. Please switch to a supported browser: Chrome, Edge, Firefox, Safari.