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6 Things to Check in Your Corn Fields Right Now
The growing season's been a good one for much of the nation where corn is king. After a tough spring planting season for some, Mother Nature's behaved fairly well. So, will your crop be a bin-buster? Here are a few key things to check about now to see if you'll hit your high yield goals.
"The 2014 crop is the best I’ve seen at stage of development. It’s been almost this good in June several times, but not at the end of July," says University of Illinois Extension agronomist Emerson Nafziger. "Fhis is a good time to consider whether this crop will turn out to be as good as it looks."
Check your nitrogen. "Despite a lot of rainfall in May and June, the deep green color of the corn crop in most fields tells us that the crop is well-provided with nitrogen. The fact that adequate N has clearly been taken up has to be a consequence of having a healthy root system that is active deep enough to take up what N is there," Nafziger says.
You may have lost some yield potential early on in the year if you had excessive rain and/or standing water in your fields. Since then, that hasn't been an issue, and the opposite might become one soon. "This year, soil water is in better supply than it was at the beginning of August last year, and the cool conditions over the coming weeks will help stretch the water supply even further."
Kernel count, Nafziger says, can be a good early indicator of what kind of yield potential you're sitting on. "Fifteen million kernels per acre, which at 75,000 kernels per bushel would produce 200 bushels per acre. At 35,000 ears per acre, it takes only about 430 kernels per ear to make 15 million per acre. At 14 rows that’s about 40 kernels per row, still easily within range of possibility," he says.
Many of today's hybrids may grow additional ears, making for multiple smaller ears versus one large one. So, if you're basing yield potential off the ears themselves, don't assume smaller ears means lower yield potential. "To estimate yield potential of there are a lot of second ears, kernels per plant should be counted, with kernel size perhaps adjusted downward slightly if there are more than 750 or so kernels per plant," Nafziger says."
How's your crop's canopy? It'll be in its best shape if you aren't seeing much sunlight hitting the ground, Nafziger says. And, it's a sign that the plants are getting the water they need. "If the crop gets enough water to maintain this canopy up to close to the end of grainfill, kernels will approach their maximum size and yields will be high," Nafziger says.
Stalk strength and standability can be tough to maintain when you've got a corn crop weighed down by healthy, full ears. If your stalks in good shape now -- not hampered by wind damage from earlier in the year -- you should be in good shape. "When conditions are very good after pollination, plants are able to allocate enough sugars to help stalks deposit lignin, which gives stalks strength," Nafziger says.
Any speculation on yields should hinge on conditions moving forward. "Facts in favor of a new record corn yield in Illinois in 2014 include a crop that’s in great shape now, above-average soil water stored in most areas, and lack of any evidence that a blocking high will set up to bring hot, dry conditions in time to shorten the filling period by much," Nafziger says.
Do you have a bin-buster growing in your corn fields? Here are a few things to watch this time of year.