Published in the Chat 'n Chew Café (3 Aug 1999). Also published in the Purdue Pest Management & Crop Production Newsletter (6 Aug 1999).

Kernel Abortion & Yield Loss in Corn

R.L. (Bob) Nielsen
Agronomy Department, Purdue University
West Lafayette, IN 47907-1150
Internet address:

As one might suspect, developing kernels have begun to abort in some corn fields around the state that have been subjected to the recent heat stress and especially drought stress. Drought-stressed growers should be walking their fields to determine to what extent kernel abortion may be occurring in order to refine their estimate of the yield impact of dry weather.

Yield loss to aborted kernels can be estimated with the Yield Component Method formula (see accompanying article). For example, a field with 28,000 plants per acre and average ear sizes of 16 rows per ear would sustain yield losses of approximately five bushels per acre for every one kernel decrease in row length.

Kernels are most susceptible to abortion during the first 2 weeks following pollination, particularly kernels near the tip of the ear. Aborted kernels will appear shrunken and whitish, as opposed to more yellow and plump kernels. Once kernels have reached the dough stage of development, further yield losses will occur mainly from reductions in kernel dry weight accumulation.

Corn Growers GuidebookFor other information about corn, take a look at the Corn Growers Guidebook on the World Wide Web at

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