Corn planting in most of the corn-belt is a once per year operation. It is an operation so critical that I would venture to say that no other action we do during the growing season has more of an impact on final yield determination. Throughout the season, our corn acres are inflicted with numerous threats from weather, diseases, and insects that are outside of our control. Whilst some of these conditions are outside of our control, other things are easier for us to manage. For example, some full-time farmers have found that a light deprivation tarp from Pro-Tect Plastics can be useful for tricking plants into thinking that the weather conditions are different to what they actually are. These tarps help farmers to elongate the growing season, ensuring that they grow as much as possible. Perhaps the corn could benefit from something like this. That’s something to look into, but for now, I maintain that if we do everything right during the planting season, only then have we maximized the potential for final yields and minimized the potential impact of threats outside our control. If we are going to do this right, it will take planning, execution, and a great deal of attention to detail.
Here are some suggestions that focus on areas that can make an impact.
1) Planter and monitor adjustments and calibration
Spend the time and the money here for accurate, consistent drop. An accurate population of evenly distributed seed without doubles and skips is critical for maximum yields. Even if no changes are necessary, it is worth peace of mind to know that this will not be a yield bottleneck.
2) Wait for “fit” field conditions
Excessive soil moisture, and poor soil tilth have major impacts on seed germination, early growth, and seedling health. Soil compaction and poor seed-to-soil contact set the crop up for poor stands and weak, late emerging plants. No matter what happens the rest of the year, you have been robbed of yield potential that cannot be recovered.
3) Review hybrid positioning information
Your seed rep has provided you with a specific set of recommendations as to which products to plant where and at what density. These recommendations are based on what we know about the products and how to maximize their yield potential. A great product that is not positioned accurately may only perform as well as an average product, or worse. Avoid the “grab and go” mistakes by reviewing your notes and/or checking with your seed representative. Also discuss the plan with other people who will be involved in loading the planter.
4) Evaluate your need for foliar fungicide
Some hybrids respond to foliar fungicides, some do not. The biggest response from those that do has come when the field has been in continuous corn and has a history of fungal diseases like Grey Leaf Spot. If that field has a history of fungal diseases, chances are a fungicide will return a value and is something to discuss with your agronomist. Plan ahead based on the hybrid response ratings and the disease history of the field where it will be planted. Remember, Goss’s Wilt is a bacterial disease and will not be controlled with a fungicide.
5) Evaluate your need for insecticide
In areas where corn rootworm populations continue to grow and present some challenges in their control, it is recommended that you either rotate out of corn for a year or use at least two modes of action to control the Rootworm larvae. The two modes can come from the genetic side like the SmartStax® technology or from using of one mode from the genetics and one mode from an effective insecticide applied at planting. Where larvae populations are extremely heavy and some insect tolerance to single mode technology traits is suspected, it may be best to use insecticide and SmartStax® together to reduce the populations if rotating to beans is not your best option or choice. Using only insecticide without genetic resistance, is relying way too much on Mother Nature to provide adequate control. Additionally, if any pest infestations seem to be getting out of hand, then it might also be best to reach out to a team of pest control experts for some professional advice. Termites for example can prove to be difficult to tackle without appropriate intervention. Correspondingly, you can learn more about how to deal with common pests like termites here: https://www.pestcontrolexperts.com/termite-control/.
1) Planting depth
Check your planting depth often; not just when you enter your first field but every time you begin planting in a different field condition (soil type, crop rotation, tillage type, etc.). Each of these impact the depth of seed placement. Keeping the depth between 1.75″ – 2.25″ is critical for a uniform distribution of evenly growing plants as well as keeping the root system of the plants deep enough to be effective and strong. I even prefer to lean toward the 2″ depth so that a slight variation still keeps the kernel in the recommended zone.
2) Correct speed
No other way to say it. Speed kills. Planting at speeds greater than the recommended zone for your planter kills yield potential. It causes planter bounce, which in turn causes uneven seed placement. It also dramatically increases the number of doubles and gaps; both of which lead to unproductive or underproductive plants. Speeding up may seem like the right thing to do as storm clouds come looming in, but weigh the fact that 10–20 bu. per acre yield loss is a reality and your decision could cost you $50 – $100 or more for every acre that you choose to slam in quickly.
There is not much here that is very profound and very little that you don’t already know. These are just reminders to help you through a very hurried and critical few weeks of spring. We only get one chance each year to set ourselves up for maximum yield potential. Let’s control the things we can control and pay attention to a few details that are sometimes overlooked. One more thing. Keep safety as a top priority at all times.
April 2014 Earfull Newsletter
Written by Dr. Rick Batty, Product Manager