Source: Peter Thomison, Alexander Lindsey, OSU
Night time temperatures can affect corn yield potential. High night temperatures (in the 70s or 80s degrees F) can result in wasteful respiration and a lower net amount of dry matter accumulation in plants. Past studies reveal that above-average night temperatures during grainfill can reduce corn yield by reducing kernel number and kernel weight. The rate of respiration of plants increases rapidly as the temperature increases, approximately doubling for each 13 degree F increase. With high night temperatures more of the sugars produced by photosynthesis during the day are lost; less is available to fill developing kernels, thereby lowering potential grain yield. High night time temperatures result in faster heat unit or growing degree day (GDD) accumulation that can lead to earlier corn maturation, whereas cool night temperatures result in slower GDD accumulation that can lengthen grain filling and promote greater dry matter accumulation and grain yields.
The Pioneer Insight article referenced below concludes….
“Although higher night temperatures undoubtedly increase the rate of respiration in corn, research generally suggests that accelerated phenological development is likely the primary mechanism affecting corn yield.”
Research at the University of Illinois conducted back in the 1960’s indicated that corn grown at night temperatures in the mid-60s (degrees F) out yielded corn grown at temperatures in the mid-80s (degrees F). Average corn yields are generally much higher with irrigation in western states, which have low humidity and limited rainfall. While these areas are characterized by hot sunny days, night temperatures are often cooler than in the Eastern Corn Belt. Low night temperatures during grain fill (which typically occurs in July and August) have been associated with some of our highest corn yields in Ohio. The cool night temperatures may have reduced respiration losses during grain fill and lengthened the rain fill period. Cooler than average night temperatures can also mitigate water stress and slow the development of foliar diseases and insect problems.