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7 money-making ideas for 2021 corn crop

Tom J. Bechman Dave Nanda holding corn leaf
BE READY FOR DISEASE: Even if you choose corn hybrids that have good disease protection, be ready to pull the trigger on fungicides if symptoms and conditions warrant it.
Corn Illustrated: Here are seven pieces of advice to remember as you prepare for 2021.

Every year we learn new things. I asked growers and seed industry experts what they learned in 2020 and other years. I received so many different responses that I couldn’t include all of them in this article.

Thanks to Todd Jeffries, vice president of Seed Genetics Direct, for helping sort through these money-making ideas. Here are seven that floated to the top:

1. Have a plan. Come up with a plan and stick to it as much as possible. You picked the best hybrids and soybean varieties for your farms. Just because it’s getting late in May or it’s early June doesn’t mean you’re better off switching to earlier hybrids that might not be ideal for your soils. Early hybrids often don’t have the same disease and stress tolerance package as fuller-season hybrids, Jeffries says.

2. Plant early soybean varieties early. This may be the Corn Illustrated column, but soybeans are an important part of the crop mix, and corn and soybean planting date decisions intertwine. If you’re planting an early soybean variety, plant it early and make sure it’s protected with fungicides and insecticides. An early soybean planted at an early date should yield well and help space out harvest, Jeffries says. That ground would be ready for wheat or cover crop seeding early.

3. Get the basics right. Even emergence and spacing are critical. Multiple studies have shown corn that emerges quickly, uniformly and evenly spaced has more desirable yields. Seed-to-soil contact with the right down pressure is a must. Make sure the planter is working correctly and the ground is fit. Testing the planter on a small strip first is always a good idea, Jeffries says.

4. Choose genetics that work for you. While we all chase yield to a certain degree, agronomics of the hybrids and varieties you choose are often overlooked. Return on investment is paramount in unpredictable times. However, you must select genetics that have proven they work on your ground and with your management style. If you’re not going to use foliar fungicides, don’t choose a hybrid with poor disease ratings just because it placed in the National Corn Growers Association yield contest.

5. Plant when it feels right. Be ready to plant as early as practical. In most cases, early planting pays off unless you happen to plant on a “bad” day. We can’t predict what the worst day for planting will be in any given year in advance. However, planting in wet soils or with a high percentage of rain in the forecast leads to root issues and soil compaction almost every time. So, be careful to pull the trigger!

6. Control weeds early. Yes, early weeds do hurt yields because they affect how crop plants react to their neighbors. Besides, if you want to control glyphosate-resistant weeds, you must jump on them with the appropriate herbicides when they’re still small.

7. Use foliar fungicides if 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. In a very late-planted corn crop like 2019, fungicides can delay maturity by keeping plants alive.

Nanda is director of genetics for Seed Genetics Direct, Jeffersonville, Ohio. Email [email protected] or call 317-910-9876.

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