Only the Lone Ranger used silver bullets. And while the TV show was entertaining, the Lone Ranger wasn’t real. Bob Nielsen cautions that if someone claims to have a silver bullet for all that ails your corn, he or she may not be genuine either.
Nielsen is the Purdue University Extension corn specialist. He has advised farmers in Indiana on how to produce top yields and maximum economic corn yields for over three decades. He’s the first to acknowledge that he doesn’t have all the answers either.
Recently, Nielsen related key strategies that growers should keep in mind. He developed seven over-arching rules for growing good crops. They’re not about whether starter fertilizer pays or how much nitrogen to apply. Rather, they’re principles worth keeping in mind as you make those decisions. Following these rules may help you avoid pitfalls related to buying products you don’t really need or trying practices not suited to your farming operation.
Here are Nielsen’s seven rules for growing good crops:
1. There are no silver bullets. Yes, the Lone Ranger had them, but remember, he wasn’t real. There are no sure-fire, works-every-time, works-everywhere solutions for growing corn, Nielsen says. Do your homework, and determine which products and practices are legitimate.
2. There is no one-size-fits-all recipe. Visualize how products and practices would fit in your farming operation. There’s value to reading about farmers who have success and learning what they do. But those articles don’t come with guarantees that what works for them will work for you.
3. Every field has a different story. Individual fields take on a life of their own. Soils vary, past farming practices differ, and insect and disease pressures change. What works best in one field may fail miserably in another.
4. Mother Nature has the final say. Does anyone remember 2012? Corn in many fields looked like pineapples, no matter how much fertilizer was applied. Then there was 2015 in northern and eastern Indiana, when spring rains overwhelmed soil capacity. Mother Nature can aid or hinder any given product or practice in any given year. That’s why one year’s data isn’t nearly enough, Nielsen says.
5. No one has all the answers. If you’re only listening to one agronomist or one seed corn rep, you’re only getting one opinion. There’s value to second and third opinions.
6. Agronomic principles don’t change. In math, 2 plus 2 always equals 4. Basic agronomic principles, such as how corn responds to nitrogen fertilizer, don’t change either, Nielsen says.
7. You can’t change the first six rules. You can’t change the rules of a football or basketball game to give your team an edge, and you can’t change the basic tenets of growing corn, Nielsen concludes.