Fortunes are looking up for Indiana farmers, many of whom didn't get to plant a grain of corn until mid-May. That put them at a disadvantage to their counterparts in Iowa, many of whom got off to an early start. However, many farmers in Illinois and all across the eastern Corn Belt found themselves in the same situation.
Dave Nanda, who served as consultant for Corn Illustrated, the Farm Progress project, for two years, provides a few ideas that might help you save a few bucks, or move a little faster, or even preserve some precious yield potential as you get to those last fields. Nanda is now president of Bird Hybrids, a small seed company based near Tiffin, Ohio.
Number one, leave off the row starter at this point, Nanda says. "Many studies show it doesn't help in the yield column if it's this late in the season, and soils are already warm," he says. "You likely won't get a return on your investment from applying starter fertilizer on corn now."
Indeed, the study by Jeff Phillips, a Tippecanoe County ag educator, at the Throckmorton Purdue university research farm near Lafayette confirmed that point last year. While there was a slight benefit on some plots in corn planted during the last week of May, it wasn't, on average, enough to pay for the fertilizer.
Second, avoid the temptation to switch hybrids for at least a few more days, Nanda says. If you can get your regular maturity choices planted by June 1, he sees no reason to switch,. Hybrids will 'cheat forward' as some people call it, meaning they will adjust and shave days off of their requirement to mature. This work was validated by Purdue's Bob Nielsen and Peer Thomison of Ohio State University just a few seasons ago.
Yield potential may slip some, Nanda acknowledged, but the corn will mature. And if you opt for a shorter season corn which may or may not have the same genetic potential as what you were going to plant in the first place, you would likely be no better off. Admittedly, companies like the one Nanda heads up only have limited access toe earlier hybrids. Last-minute switching would be a challenge for them and others as well.
Third, Nanda says this may be the year to consider no-till to cut time on those last-remaining fields. Just make sure your planter can handle these conditions, and that you have a plan to spray weeds. This may be easier if the hybrids you are using allow you to spray either Roundup or Ignite over standing corn once weeds emerge.