Fewer Test Plots No Excuse for Less Scouting

Many fell as a casualty to wet spring.

Published on: Jun 13, 2011

The best laid plans…many had grand ideas of doing test plots to test planting rates for both corn and soybeans and many other things before the spring season started. Some just wanted to put out simple variety test plots. Then spring came, the calendar marched forward into unfriendly territory, and the goal became getting the crop in, not planting plots, especially if it was a complicated plot that would require dumping boxes or vacuuming out seed several times to complete.

There are some test plots out there, but not as many as there would have been, one seedsman notes. And a county Extension ag educator agrees. "I had plans ready, but since it got into mid and late May, I didn't even bother farmers about doing plots," says Dave Smith, Extension ag educator at Johnson County in Indiana.  "I knew they just wanted to get their crop in at some point."

Where there are plots, you can still do comparisons during the season. Notice differences in growth patterns, and in resistance to diseases during the season. Don't wait to run the plot if it's yours, or see the plot result shed or test plot book if it's a neighbor's plot, before walking it. What you can learn while a hybrid is growing may help you decide if it has the traits that fit good on your farm or not.

If you don't have a plot out but intended to, don't use it as an excuse not to scout for insects and diseases, experts say. It's still necessary to get out into the field and check for various pests as the season progresses. You would be more likely inclined to do it naturally if you had a test plot because you would want to see how the various entries were stacking up in appearance vs. each other. Get out there anyway, plot or not, and look for signs of disease and insects.

Looking for disease on leaves in late June and early July may help you decide if you need a fungicide or not. At the same time, check with your seedsman and know which fields are most susceptible to diseases that fungicides could help control. The farther up the plant you find symptoms early in the season, the more likely that the disease will become an issue, and that the field could benefit from an application. If weather conditions shift the infection may slow down or stop. But if weather conditions that helped the disease get a foothold persist, the need for treatment could intensify.

Be sure to be in the field when corn is pollinating. Silk-clipping beetles, primarily Japanese beetles and adult western corn rootworm beetles, can cause significant pollination problems and thus lower yields if they are prevalent and not controlled. Several factors come into play. Timing is everything. If silks are already brown, it's too late- any applications are just for revenge! But if silks on most ears are clipped to one-half-inch or less above the ear shuck and pollination is still actively underway, you could likely benefit from an application to control thee insects.

The bottom line is you won't know unless you look, whether you have a test plot this year or not!