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Lessons from 2010 to take into this year

You only get 35 to 40 seasons to “get it right.” So you need to learn from every season. The cumulative knowledge should help you become more profitable.

I’ve worked with corn for nearly 50 years, and I learn something new every year. Here are 10 lessons that I learned last year.

Early-planted corn yielded more than late-planted corn. It happens almost every time. The difference was obvious in 2010 because a good percentage of the crop was planted early, then the rest was planted in very late May.

Fields with good drainage pay. We had lots of rain in May and June. Poorly drained fields were replanted. One tiled field for Jim Douglas, Shelbyville, yielded 190 bushels per acre. His water-logged field across the road was replanted and yielded 110 bushels. He’s begun tiling the poorly drained field.

Fields with higher organic matter retained moisture better. That became obvious in late July and August when it turned hot everywhere — and dry in most locations. I would suggest planting fields with higher organic matter thicker to maximize yields.

Planting speed affects spacing. Those who planted corn at 4 to 4.5 miles per hour got better plant distribution. Doubles and skips that are caused by planting very fast hurt crop yield.

However, in the absence of skips and doubles, more uniform stands from slower planting speeds didn’t translate into higher yields in a late-planted study.

Planting depth can be critical. In a study involving planting depth, we found deeper-planted corn had more uniform plant stand and early growth. Picking the right depth for planting may be affected by when you’re planting, existing weather conditions and weather events you expect in the near term.

Corn doesn’t like heat, especially at night. Yields were higher in 2009 when July featured cooler weather, especially cooler nights. About the only adjustment we can make is to plant early and play the odds of beating the hottest periods.

Are you still applying too much nitrogen? Not everyone does, but some people still do. Research studies conducted by G & K Concepts, Harlan, indicate you can produce 220 bushels per acre of corn with 160 pounds of total available N per acre.

They’ve also determined that your highest-yielding fields may need less N than your lowest-yielding fields because of bigger root mass in better ground.

Sidedressing has always paid and still does. The trick is figuring out how to cover all your acres. But the closer you apply N to the time the plant will use it, the less you’re going to need.

Fungicide applications shouldn’t be automatic. Hybrids with good disease tolerance may not need foliar fungicides. Also, earlier-planted corn hybrids grew faster than the leaf diseases and tended to escape them.

Are ground applications better? If you’re applying fungicides, there’s evidence that ground applications provide better coverage and more effective control than aerial applications do. Whether all acres can be covered in time with ground application is a different question.

Nanda writes from Indianapolis. He’s an agronomic crops consultant and director of genetics and technology for Seed Consultants Inc. Contact him at: Nanda@seedconsultants.com, or 317-910-9876.

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TILING PAYS: Jim Douglas and his son, Shelbyville, work on a tiling project in a field that yielded 80 bushels less than their already-tilled field across the road.

This article published in the January, 2011 edition of INDIANA PRAIRIE FARMER.

All rights reserved. Copyright Farm Progress Cos. 2011.