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Manage Residue for Even Corn Emergence

Manage Residue for Even Corn Emergence
Agronomist recommends getting corn residue away from row

Paul Jasa with the University of Nebraska says how evenly corn emerges is even more important to final yield than whether or not all plants are spaced evenly. He likes to see corn emerge evenly within 48 hours or less from when the first plant emerges to when the last plant emerges.

Jasa is an Extension ag engineer who has devoted his career to helping farmers get more even stands, especially in no-till conditions. He brought his message to Mike Starkey's farm where farmers gathered recently to learn about planters and achieving better performance. Starkey is a no-tiller who uses cover crops. He farms near Brownsburg.

Lots of residue: If you're planting into a field where you harvested 200 bushels of corn per acre or more and didn't till last fall, think through residue management this spring.

Andy Heggenstaller, DuPont Pioneer agronomy research manager, says poor or uneven emergence can be due to too much residue in the row, especially when planting into corn residue.

"Corn residue will delay and outright interrupt plant establishment, and suppress the resulting plant population," he says. "Corn residue is always a management issue, and high-yield systems increase residue levels."

Chopping option
Many Indiana fields have a lot of residue after last year's big yields. One option would have been to chop it with a chopping header or stalk chopper after harvest, he says.

However, Barry Fisher, an agronomist with the Natural Resources Conservation Service, isn't fond of chopping heads, especially if you're in a continuous no-till system. He prefers to leave the stalk intact in the ground after harvest. It helps wick moisture out in the spring, Fisher says, and helps avoid having a mat of residue to plant into this spring.

The reason for chopping and sizing residue is to get it to begin breaking down faster, Heggenstaller says. Some farmers apply some nitrogen or even manure to help promote bacterial decomposition of stalks.

This spring, one option is tillage after corn. "Tillage practices mix residue with soil, which allows the bacteria to go to work faster," Heggenstaller says.

From the corn hybrid you select to the seeding rate and row width you choose, every decision you make influences the size and scope for corn yields. Download our FREE report: Maximizing Your Corn Yield.

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