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3 tips for 2009

Agriculture.com Staff 04/27/2009 @ 1:53pm

Soggy and cold soils thwarted timely planting last spring for many farmers. As it turned out, though, yields in many areas at harvest were better than expected.

A mix of good midseason weather and sound agronomic management kept farmers in the game. Here's a smattering of practices that worked for some last year and to keep in mind for 2009.

  1. Sidedress nitrogen
    Last spring's prolific precipitation resulted in late-season nitrogen (N) losses. However, those farmers who were able to sidedress N on corn during the growing season experienced good results.

    "What we saw was a lack of N to carry the crop to full maturity," says Ted Hamer, a Traer, Iowa, farmer. "We sidedressed up to 60 pounds an acre of additional nitrogen and saw a benefit in most cases."

  2. Consider defensive traits
    Variety selection is crucial for soybeans. "We're fortunate to be in an area where there, so far, is no huge problem with soybean cyst nematode," says Hamer.

    His area is impacted by white mold infestations, however. "So we look for varieties that are defensive against white mold as well as strong in yield potential."

  3. Control weeds early
    In a year with tightening profit margins, it's tempting to cut corners on production inputs.

    One area you shouldn't cut, though, is in residual preemergence herbicides that control weeds early, says Pat Steiner, business unit head of marketing for Syngenta. "If you cut that corner, you will see irreversible yield losses," he says.

    Total postemergence weed control programs are suspect to adverse weather. You may have every intention of making a timely early post-emergence application. But rainfall can delay that application for a week.

    "If you delay a postemergence application for a week, you could be cutting your corn yields by .3 to 3.5 bushels per acre a day," says Steiner.

    On corn, yield loss mainly occurs because plants grow taller to avoid weed competition. "It does so at the expense of growing roots," he says.

    That's why weed scientists recommend applying a residual preemergence herbicide to provide four to six weeks of weed control before adding a postemergence herbicide. This curtails early weeds while preserving yield potential, says Steiner.

Soggy and cold soils thwarted timely planting last spring for many farmers. As it turned out, though, yields in many areas at harvest were better than expected.

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