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Green Snap Injury in Corn

Categories: GROWING, CORN
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  • Green snap injury in corn has the potential to significantly reduce yield potential. 
  • Percent-broken:percent-yield-reduction ratios are usually less than the previously published 1:1 ratio. 
  • The growth stage of corn when green snap happens plays a significant role in the potential damage. 

Green snap or brittle snap is the breakage (snap) of corn stalk nodes as a result of excessive winds. Corn plants that are in rapid canopy growth stages, prior to pollination, are the most susceptible to wind damage. Green snap is not a rare phenomenon, but relatively few acres are affected in most years. It is predominantly seen in the western and northern Corn Belt when rapid corn growth is mixed with high wind speeds.

Green snap can be seen from the lower nodes close to the soil surface in addition to nodes at or above the ear. During accelerated growth, stalk internodes elongate rapidly, and the node and internode tissue is packed with water. Cell walls have not matured yet, so very little structural lignin has been deposited, meaning that these water-packed cell walls are quite fragile. It is at this stage that the corn plant is susceptible to high winds and breakage at the nodal “plates.” Hybrids vary in tolerance to green snap and the growth stage plays a significant role in potential breakage and yield reduction.

Simulated Green Snap Study  

A study was conducted at York, NE, in 2021 to help understand the yield loss potential of modern hybrids associated with high wind green snap events. Golden Harvest® corn hybrid G11V76-5122 with a semi-flex ear rating was used for this study. A pruning shear was used to cut the corn 1 node below the estimated ear node at approximately the V13-V14 growth stage in 4 row treatment blocks with randomized damage ranging from 0% to 70%. The corn was monitored throughout the growing season with yield taken from all entries at 17% moisture using grain weight.

Yield Loss Associated with Green Snap  

Yield loss associated with green snap is based on where on the plant the breakage took place along with the number of plants affected. Stalks breaking above the ear may still produce an ear, but that ear may be restricted due to shading from nearby unaffected plants and loss of plant leaf area. Stalk breakage below the ear usually results in the complete loss of a harvestable ear. For this study, all breakage was simulated below the ear node. This loss of harvestable ears per acre is the primary cause of yield loss associated with green snap. Research has differed in yield loss potential from green snap over time. The University of Nebraska-Lincoln concluded that yield loss decreases approximately 1% for every 1% in stalk breakage (1:1 ratio).1 However, several subsequent research studies have suggested that the yield loss from stalk breakage is generally much less severe with modern corn hybrids.

Effects of Simulated Green Snap

The study at York showed yield loss less severe than the previously published Nebraska trials (Table 1). The simulated study saw yield losses of 0.6-0.76% for every 1% of plants broken, with increasing yield loss as stalk breakage severity increased. Iowa State University conducted similar trials assessing green snap and observed similar results as found in the Golden Harvest simulated trial with percent-broken:percent-yield-reduction ratios ranging from 1:0.5 to 1:0.73, both being lower than losses previously published.2

Chart showing corn stalk breakage percentage compared to total yield.
Table 1. Simulated stalk breakage data from York, NE, study

Summary

With only 1 year of data, specific conclusions should not yet be drawn. However, as the percentage of plant breakage went up, the yield reduction percentage also increased. Information from this small study, along with others, suggests that yield reductions vary. Also, modern corn hybrids have the ability to compensate slightly for the loss of neighboring plants.3 If green snap occurred above the ear, the plant is still likely to produce grain, although less than before, resulting in even less negative yield reduction.

close up of corn stalks with green snap wind damage testing at York, NE.
Figure 1. Green snap study plot at York, NE
overhead shot of the corn trial plot with 50% green snap wind damage in York, NE
Figure 2. Fifty percent green snap 2021 trial plot in York, NE

References

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