Lessons From This Year's Crop

CROP WATCH: Take lessons from this year and build for next year.

Published on: Oct 28, 2013

The Crop Watch field was harvested, and as we reported last week, yielded 207.5 bushels per acre, well above what was expected. That seems to be a common theme so far this fall – corn is turning out even better than expected in most areas.

Now it's time to reflect on what you can learn from this year. Next year won't be the same because the weather won't be the same, but there may be lessons you can take out of this year to build for the future. As Dave Nanda says, this year's yield was good, but it could have been even better in places if it had rained and cooperated in August. You want to be ready to take advantage of good weather, and minimize risk when weather isn't so good. Nanda is Director of Genetics and Technology for Seed Consultants, Inc.

Corn borer lives: Heres an ear found on the ground, and the hole made by a corn borer larva late in the season into the ear shank. This was non-GMO corn.
Corn borer lives: Here's an ear found on the ground, and the hole made by a corn borer larva late in the season into the ear shank. This was non-GMO corn.

• Plant early if you can: While many fields planted in mid to late May yielded extremely well this year, so did fields planted earlier. The Crop Watch field was planted May 2 and May 3. Early planting still pays in most years.

• Late stress doesn't mean low test weight: Test weight is controlled more by genetics than the environment, unless weather conditions are extreme, Nanda says. That's why the corn from the Crop Watch field posted a test weight near 60 pounds per bushel even though the last six weeks of dry weather stressed the crop. The hybrid planted there is known for high test weight.

• Corn borer is still around: This was non-GMO corn. At harvest a few ears were already on the ground. Upon investigating it was obvious most of them were caused by tunneling of the corn borer through the shank, weakening it and letting the ear fall out.

• Get nitrogen rate right: An equipment malfunction led to applying less nitrogen than intended. However, the field produced a bushel of nitrogen on about 0.8 pounds of applied N per acre. It was after soybeans. The crop showed signs of nitrogen deficiency late. If more was available, would the field have yielded more?

• Uniform emergence is key: There were very few barren stalks or plants that acted as weeds because they emerged late. Spacing wasn't perfect, but emergence seemed to be right on schedule. When all plants emerge together, each has an equal chance. Good planter maintenance helps deliver uniform stands.