In an effort to increase corn yields, many farmers have turned to boosting inputs. However, with today’s drop in crop net returns it may be best to focus less on inputs and more on ways to enhance corn performance.
Inputs such as fertilizers, row spacing, seeding rates, as well as preventative applications of things like biological stimulants, foliar fungicides and growth regulators are becoming increasingly cost prohibitive since the return on investment cannot be guaranteed. This is not to say these methods should be discarded altogether, but rather used in conjunction with other types enhancement methods.
Of course, there are several management practices that can be put in place to enhance corn performance. The key is to investigate these practices and decide which will work best for your particular operation. What follows are some practices you may want to consider.
- Adhere to seeding rate recommendations. If you are unsure of the recommended rate your seed dealer will be able to help you.
- Be economical with nitrogen. Consider side-dressing and an application method that minimizes any potential loss of nitrogen.
- Choose the correct hybrids. Choose hybrids that continue to produce high yields in a variety of locations. It also is important to choose hybrid seed corn that rates high for foliar and stalk rot diseases. This is especially important when planting no-till or reduced tillage.
- Employ pest management practices. The need for effective and timely pest and weed control cannot be underestimated.
- Enhance stand establishment. Adjust seeding depth as soil conditions warrant.
- Know when to plant. If possible, try to finish planting by early May. Dry soil conditions may allow for earlier planting, but it is better to plant late than to plant on poorly drained soil.
- Perform tillage only when necessary. The only time tillage is required is when there is a compacted zone or in the late summer due to dry conditions.
- Practice traffic control. The more heavy equipment that drives over fields, the greater soil compaction and lower productivity.
- Rotate crops. Corn that is grown after soybeans is likely to bring a higher yield than corn grown after corn.
- Soil test to adjust pH. Soil testing prevents unwarranted phosphorus and potassium applications.
Again, there are many ways to enhance corn performance. Employing one or more of the practices listed above will go a long way toward greater performance. It also is important to remain on the lookout for trouble throughout the season to prevent such problems from impacting overall performance.