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corn seedling that never emerged
DIG AND SEE: Dave Nanda checked five spots where a plant was missing in this field. In four of the five cases, a seed or seedling was there but didn’t germinate or emerge. This seedling never emerged.

12 proven ideas to prepare for 2020 crop season

Corn Illustrated: The benefits of many of these practices were reinforced in 2019.

Every growing season teaches new lessons. The accumulation of lessons is called “experience.” Younger farmers can learn from experienced farmers about ideas that work and don’t have to learn everything by themselves.

Following are 12 proven ideas to consider:

1. Choose the right genetics. Match genetics to different soil types. Consider performance over multiple locations and multiple years rather than planting what did well last year.

2. Think about disease resistance. Use disease-resistant hybrids with good standability. Ask your seed rep to make sure you’re planting hybrids from different genetic families. Don’t put all your eggs in one genetic basket. Use both aggressive and defensive hybrids, because you never know what Mother Nature has in store.

3. Plant early. Plant as early as practical for your farm. In most cases, early planting pays off unless you happen to plant on a “bad” day. We can’t predict the worst day for planting. Pay attention to short-term weather forecasts. Planting in wet soils leads to root issues and soil compaction every time. Be careful to pull the trigger!

4. Seek cause of missing plants. Missing plants don’t always mean planter skips. Often, the seed just didn’t germinate.

5. Set “switch” dates. Plan for dates when you will switch to earlier-maturity hybrids and dates when you will switch to another crop. This should make decision-making more objective.

6. Control weeds early. Early weeds hurt yields because they affect the reaction of crop plants to their neighbors. That can affect yield. Besides, if you want to control glyphosate-resistant weeds, you must jump on them when they’re small.

7. Sidedress with nitrogen. This is a no-brainer. Many fields last year showed nitrogen deficiency due to downward leaching caused by excessive rains. However, too much N in a wet year can prevent corn from drying down as quickly.

8. Use foliar fungicides when needed. How much you should invest in the crop depends on your planting date and crop growth. Fungicides can be cost-effective if used properly. However, in a very late-planted crop like 2019, fungicides can delay maturity by keeping plants alive.

9. Don’t ignore corn borer threat. This pest is alive and well. GMO hybrids carrying corn borer-resistant traits are very effective in controlling this pest. If you’re not growing conventional corn for premiums, consider using these traits.

10. Consider tiling. Tiling can pay big dividends, especially if we have more years like 2019. Fields that were tiled dried sooner and were planted earlier. Corn likes enough water, but it doesn’t like wet feet.

11. Use cover crops. Fields with cover crops dried out sooner and could be planted earlier. If you can’t plant cover crops before harvesting, think about aerial seeding in 2020. It will pay off in the long run. Don’t leave bare ground.

12. Consider narrow rows. When you’re ready to switch planters, think about narrow rows. Corn breeders are developing shorter hybrids with upright leaves and more stress tolerance and stay-green power that may be planted at higher populations. These hybrids are already available from some seed companies.

Nanda is director of genetics for Seed Genetics-Direct, Jeffersonville, Ohio. Email him at dave.nanda@gmail.com or call 317-910-9876.

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