It’s a problem every farmer hopes to avoid: “down” or lodged corn that cuts yields and turns harvest into an endurance trial. 

In 2011 straight-line winds produced wide swaths of damage across Illinois, Iowa, Missouri, and Wisconsin, prompting some growers to wonder if lodging is becoming more common. At Kelderman Manufacturing, a builder of combine reels, Gary Kelderman believes corn lodging is an increasing problem.

“As yields go up, we can expect the incidence of corn going down to increase,” Kelderman argues. “Think of the weight of 300-bu. corn on 35,000 to 40,000 stalks or so. The higher the yield, the stronger the stalks have to be.”

Kelderman’s increased sales of equipment to manage lodged corn support his point. “We used to make sales eight to 10 months out of each year,” he says. “We’ve sold reels every month for the past 15 to 16 months.”

Many variables, from the choice of hybrid to planting conditions, or the wind direction, can affect whether corn goes down. But the biggest problem, according to Roger Elmore, Iowa State Extension (ISU) corn specialist, is that occurrences are so unpredictable.