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Continuous corn: 1950s style!

  • Rye Method

    Rye Method
    This method involved the fewest changes from the present.

  • Before plowing

    Before plowing
    Fertilizer can be applied spring or fall. Enough actual nitrogen to decompose rye and supply corn may need to be 200 pounds at first.  Rye can be pastured or made into grass silage. 

  • Tillage

    Few of our soils will take plowing, discing, and harrowing year after year. Under continuous corn we must consider “once-over” and other minimum tillage ideas which will reduce soil compaction.

  • Planting

    Here 4-row equipment can be used. Plant populations equal to 100- to 150-bushel yields mean 14,000 stalks or better. Starter is applied here, probably a must for all continuous methods.  

  • Cultivation

    Usual weed controls can be used – but again too much working of soil can be damaging over the years. In general, weeds seem to fade in competition with well-fertilized, thickly planted corn.  

  • Seeding

    Air seeding of the rye is fast and inexpensive. Ground machines work the soil, giving better stands. Single row and high-clearance, 2- and 3-row rigs now are being used. 

  • Harvest

    Besides the corn crop, there is fall pasture. Rye helps hold nitrogen over winter as well as protecting the soil. We are hunting for other grasses to sow between the rows.

  • Mulch Method

    Mulch Method
    This method involved the fewest operations and was easiest on the soil.  

  • Before planting

    Before planting
    Objective of the mulch method is fewer trips over the field, for both economy and less soil breakdown. Also, mulch protects the soil.  Discing may be necessary to make corn planting easier.

  • Mulch planting

    Mulch planting
    Here we show a mulch-type planter, but hard-ground listers are also used. Bottom panel shows large sweeps which cut under mulch and place fertilizer deep. Top detail shows planter. 

  • Spraying weeds

    Spraying weeds
    Spraying works well in a mulch-planted field because broad-leaved weeds are often more of a problem. Another big advantage: spraying eliminated working the soil at least once. 

  • Cultivating

    Mulch-planted corn is better handled with a disc cultivator than with shovel or spring-tooth types. Discs cut through trash well, throw the soil in against stalks, and don run as deep. 

  • Harvesting

    Picking is routine – but it’s extra important we stay off continuous cornfields when wet. At this point, fertilizer is half or more used up with all three methods shown here. 

  • Chopping stalks

    Chopping stalks
    Tremendous volume of stalks from high stands on fertile soil usually must be chopped to facilitate planting. Chopped mulch protects soil, rots faster in spring. 

  • Wide-row Method

    Wide-row Method
    This method involved sowing legumes between the rows, thus providing up to 100 pounds of home-grown nitrogen. 

  • Before planting

    Before planting
    Here again, fitting the ground can be by the usual methods, but work toward as few trips over the soil as possible. Fertility potential should be up to 100 bushels or more per acre. 

  • Planting

    Most farmers extend an old planter. Sixty-inch rows are most popular. This lets in enough light for seedings.  The planter must drop 50 percent more seed corn to make up for the fewer rows.

  • Cultivation

    Rotary hoes and shovel cultivators can be used. Two trips are all you will get in before it’s time to sow the intercrop. Chemical weed killers before seeding may harm legume seedlings.

  • Seeding intercrop

    Seeding intercrop
    At about 1 ½ feed tall or in late June, seeding is made. For green manure, ryegrass and sweet clover are widely used. Also, southern alfalfas and red clover. Special seeder is shown.

  • Clipping

    Intercrop and corn often benefit by cutting back weeds. Here narrow tractor and underslung cutter do the job. Front- and rear-mounted clipping machines are also available. 

  • Last trip

    Last trip
    No 2-row wide-row pickers are available. High stalk number in row slows picking but machinery will improve as idea clicks.  Fertilizer can be applied in spring or fall.

Here's a fun look back at the three methods used by early adopters for continuous corn.

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