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5 corn basics for abmornal conditions
There's really no "normal" anymore when it comes to growing conditions for your corn, something that makes it difficult to get the most out of your crop when taking into account only past years' performance. That puts a premium on good observation and consideration of many factors throughout the growing season this year, according to Purdue University Extension agronomist Bob Nielsen.
In general, the most important thing to do is conduct thorough crop scouting and, more importantly, be ready to act on anything you might find that needs attention. "The bottom line is get out into your fields during the growing season, identify problem areas early while evidence is still there to aid diagnostics and figure out what's going on with your crops," Nielsen says.
Specifically, what should you be paying closest attention to when you're scouting? Nielsen says there are 5 key areas for general consideration, the first being field drainage. "Poorly drained soils can hinder the establishment of vigorous corn stands by challenging the uniformity of roots and plant development," he says. "Improving tile or surface drainage reduces the risks of ponding or soggy soils, denitrification and soil compaction."
Soil erosion control. Effective soil moisture retention and minimal runoff are major components to a healthy start for your crops, Nielsen says. Make sure you've got a system planned or in place to keep the right amount of water on and in your soil, whether it's a specific tillage system, water control structures or cover crops.
Hybrid selection. "The key challenge is to identify hybrids that not only have good yield potential but that also tolerate a wide range of growing conditions," Nielsen says in a university report. "The best way to accomplish this is to evaluate hybrid performance across a lot of locations. University trials are good for this exercise."
Nutrient management. This is important, especially with the variability in precipitation there's been in much of the Corn Belt since last fall. "Best management practices include avoiding fall applications, avoiding surface application of urea-based fertilizers without incorporation, and adopting sidedress nitrogen application programs where practical," Nielsen says.
Disease management. Make sure you set up your fields so that the chances of an outbreak of a disease like gray leaf spot or northern corn leaf blight are minimized. "The best ways to manage these diseases are by selecting hybrids for strong disease resistance characteristics, avoiding continuous corn-cropping systems, avoiding no-till cropping systems and responsibly using foliar fungicides," Nielsen says.
Common sense. Keep in mind the things that make good sense, Nielsen says. "Remember it ain't rocket science," he says. "We're talking about a lot of common-sense agronomic principles that work together to minimize the usual crop stresses that occur every year and allow the crop to better tolerate uncontrollable weather stresses."
With the volatility in growing conditions of the last few years, it's best to stick to the basics in getting your corn crop in & up.