Corn After Corn Raises Concern

No-tillers face tough decisions in coming year.

Published on: Nov 15, 2007

Ohio no-till growers practicing continuous corn production face issues normally remedied with crop rotation. Overcoming production issues with corn-after-corn management will be addressed during the Ohio No-Till Conference, Dec. 4.

Ohio State University Extension agronomist Peter Thomison will join Emerson Nafzinger from the University of Illinois to present a session on the challenges growers face with continuous corn under no-till production.

The conference, sponsored by the Ohio No-Till Council in cooperation with Ohio State University Extension and U.S. Department of Agriculture-Natural Resources Conservation Service, will take place from 8 a.m. until 3:15 p.m. at Der Dutchman Restaurant in Plain City, Ohio. Registration is $20 before Nov. 29 and $25 at the door, and includes refreshments, exhibits and lunch.

"We'll be discussing everything from how corn responds in crop rotations during different growing seasons, to hybrid selection for corn after corn, to selecting the best traits that fit into a corn after corn system," says Thomison, who also holds an Ohio Agricultural and Research Development Center research appointment.

Dominated by a corn-soybean production system, widespread continuous corn production is relatively new to Ohio. But with the increased interest in ethanol production, more growers are looking to make the switch. With continuous corn, however, come many risks, says Thomison.

The biggest issue under continuous corn production is the large amount of residue that is generated. That residue can result in a variety of planting and harvesting problems, including:

• Greater levels of disease inoculum. Continuous corn increases the frequency and severity of disease problems.
• Cooler, wetter soils during and after planting, which result in delayed germination and emergence, slower vegetative growth, prolonged exposure to diseases and insects, and compaction during harvest.
• Interference with planter row units. The presence of residue from previous corn crops may cause uneven seedling depths and poor seed to soil contact.
• Decreased efficacy of soil-applied herbicides.
• Increased stand establishment problems due to slow warming and drying of soils, especially those poorly drained.
• Greater potential for nitrogen losses.

"The risk and magnitude of yield drag and other problems associated with continuous corn is greatest with no-till on poorly drained soils," says Thomison. Other problems include a greater risk to diseases caused by western corn rootworm and a longer harvest season due to time and capacity demands on machinery, drying facilities, transportation and storage.

"One of the goals of the presentation is to provide growers recommendations to practice continuous corn under no-till and to provide research data that support those recommendations," says Thomison.

Other topics presented during the Ohio No-Till Conference include selecting and establishing cover crops, nitrogen credits from legume cover crops after wheat, and a farmer panel highlighting the success of continuous corn in no-till production. OSU Extension specialists, experienced no-till farmers, and industry experts will be on-hand to present the information.

For more information on the Ohio No-Till Conference, contact Randall Reeder at (614) 292-6648 or reeder.1@osu.edu. Mail registration to Mark Wilson, Land Stewards, 31 East Pacemont Road, Columbus, OH 43202.