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Proven ideas for improving corn yields

Corn Illustrated: Good yields start with planning before the season begins.

We have conducted the Corn Watch project for several years and have reported our observations and data from tests conducted in cooperating farmers’ fields. The following ideas were derived from lessons learned in hopes of helping you improve your corn yields and profits. If you use even a single idea, our efforts are worthwhile.

Prepare and plan

The first goal should be doing the best job of planting possible. This starts with preseason planter maintenance. Then planning should continue all season.

Strive for proper seed placement. All corn rows across the planter may not emerge at the same rate. Check planting depth of each row using a block of wood to gauge actual depth before going to the field. Not all rows may adjust the same — even if the planter is new from the factory.

As for planting depth, it is better to plant too deep than too shallow. Many tests have shown that seed placed at 2.5 inches is more successful than at 1.5 inches. Consider adding at least four Precision Planting SmartFirmers on a 24-row planter to get a better feel for whether you’re planting all rows into moisture.

Also, take time to get out of the tractor and check spacing and depth in each row. Don’t rely just on sensors and monitors. If you’re still using two solid rubber closing wheels, invest in a better option to improve stand and profit.

Plant spacing within the row is as important as uniform emergence in determining the fate of a corn plant. Even spacing in the row gives each plant the same opportunity to produce a good ear.

Develop early- to midseason strategies

Early planting can pay dividends. Tests over time show you get higher yields, shorter plants, less stalk lodging, lower moisture at harvest and higher test weights.

Planting two hybrids with maturity three days apart in alternating blocks across the field can spread pollination and reduce risk. Check with your seed representative to make sure flowering time is truly three days apart.

Early weed control is a must. Plants sense early how much competition they have by light reflectance from the neighboring plants’ chlorophyll and react accordingly. It doesn’t matter whether they’re weeds or other corn plants.

If you saw early-season nitrogen losses, reconsider sidedressing. Applying additional nitrogen when needed, by foliar feeding, is not always effective. It may depend on how much you apply and the weather after the application.

Remember, the number of stalks with good ears at harvest determines yield. Consider increasing your planting rates, if necessary. If some plants don’t have an ear or have a nubbin, determine why. Many growers leave money on the table by lowering plant populations.

Late-season management ideas

Use foliar fungicides if you see lesions of leaf diseases like gray leaf spot or tar spot on lower leaves. The most effective time to spray is after pollination is complete. You want to protect the ear leaf and all leaves above the ear.

Tissue tests conducted at V5 can be turned around quick enough to make applications of micronutrients. Tissue tests in midseason or even at tasseling, and stalk nitrate tests after the season, can help fine-tune your nitrogen program.

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

TAGS: Planting
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