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Louisiana: one shot to plant corn?

If current conditions continue, planting correctly and achieving adequate stands of corn and milo the first time will be more important this year than ever before. The reason — supplies of corn and milo seed are tighter than normal. If a stand is not achieved the first time, there may not be enough seed to replant entire fields.

Several production factors are important.

With all of the rain received over the past couple of weeks, date of planting is not a concern right now. Today (Feb. 14), even with full sunshine and no more rain, it will take at least seven to 10 days before the lightest soils would be dry enough for planting.

The earliest corn that will go in will be just about right. The LSU AgCenter recommended corn planting dates are Feb. 25 to March 20 for south Louisiana and March 10 to April 1 for north Louisiana.

There has been some exceptional work recently on plant populations across the Mid-South. An important strategy to maximize corn yields is to plant the correct plant population. At grower meetings this year, we have stressed that producers need to ask their seed dealers about the optimal plant population for each hybrid.

The companies know exactly the plant populations needed to maximize yield. Corn yields are being maximized from populations as low as 20,000 to as high as 35,000 per acre.

A general guide is that most hybrids will maximize yield potential with final plant populations from 22,000 to 31,000 plants per acre.

Dual row versus the single row: most research indicates the dual row system is fine, especially on beds, but yields have not been increased significantly over those of a single row system.

Rick Mascagni, an agronomist at the LSU AgCenter’s Northeast Research Station, compared twin rows versus single rows. His research indicated there was little yield advantage in corn regardless of plant population.

If you have irrigation, use it. Corn requires a large volume of water on an annual basis to maximize yield. Around 24 inches of water is required during the growing season to maintain and maximize yields.

An interesting observation for north Louisiana was noted over the past three years in core block trials. Under irrigated conditions, yields ranged from 160 to 165 bushels per acre when the crop was planted from March 1 to April 5. Under non-irrigated conditions, yields decreased to 148 bushels per acre when corn was planted from March 1 to March 20, and yields were less than 130 bushels per acre when corn was planted March 31 to April 5. The results indicate the harsh yield penalties when corn is planted later in a non-irrigated environment.

I have been asked over the past couple of weeks about how to handle black birds and crows at planting. One of the more successful practices I have observed is placing a plastic owl on a T-post or a fence post in the middle of the field. “Reflective eyes” have made a difference also.

The key to success with the decoys is moving them as often as possible. The decoys can reduce bird pressure as much as a week in some cases.

Another way to keep them out is to make sure the seed furrow is closed adequately with the press wheels. That is especially important in minimum till situations and in fields with lots of leftover crop debris. The birds typically start in an open furrow and move systematically down the row, never missing a kernel.

Planting corn after corn presents some interesting challenges. The lack of crop rotation is misunderstood, but one thing is very clear, when crops are not rotated, yields are not maximized.

In the Midwest, yield penalties for corn following corn range from 10 to 12 bushels per acre, or as much as 10 percent.

Choose the right genetics. Try to rotate hybrids in a field for less disease loss. If you have the option, place a Bt hybrid in fields where corn follows corn. Save your non-Bt hybrids for fields that were in cotton or beans last year.

Even with most hybrids being Roundup Ready, attempt to rotate herbicide chemistries as much as possible. Those would be the residual compounds added to glyphosate products.

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