With record corn yields in many parts of the Midwest last year, growers will once again be looking to squeeze every bushel out of their fields this growing season.
“Growers have tasted the high yield potential their fields are capable of,” says Peter Thomison, an Ohio State University Extension agronomist. “They know they can extract more from their fields than they have in the past.”
To that end, Thomison has identified 10 proven practices for increasing corn yields and improving profits. While these are geared more toward Ohio producers, many of them may apply to your situation.
“These are practical, economic approaches to achieving high yields,” Thomison says. “Not only are these practices the foundation for successful corn production, but they also help exploit the yield potential offered by new technologies.”
The 10 production practices include:
- Know the yield potential of a cornfield, its yield history, the soil type and its productivity.
- Choose high-yielding, adapted hybrids. Pick hybrids that have produced consistently high yields across a number of locations or years. Select hybrids with high ratings for foliar and stalk rot diseases when no-tilling or with reduced tillage, especially after corn. Select high-yielding Bt rootworm-resistant hybrids where there is potential for western corn rootworm damage.
- Follow pest management practices that provide effective, timely pest control, as well as weed control.
- Aim to complete planting by May 10. If soil conditions are dry, begin planting before the optimum date, but avoid early planting on poorly drained soils. If planting late, plant corn borer-resistant Bt hybrids.
- Follow practices that will enhance stand establishment. Adjust seeding depth according to soil conditions and monitor planting depth periodically during the planting operation, adjusting for varying soil conditions. Make sure the planter is in good working order. Inspect and adjust the planter to improve stand establishment. Operate planters at speeds that will optimize seed placement. Uneven emergence affects crop performance because late-emerging plants cannot compete with larger, early emerging plants.
- Adjust seeding rates on a field-by-field basis. On productive soils, which may average 175 bushels per acre or more year after year, final stands of 32,000 plants per acre or more may be required to maximize yields.
- Supply the most economical rate of nitrogen. Use an application method that will minimize the potential loss of nitrogen.
- Utilize soil testing to adjust pH and guide phosphorus and potassium fertilization. Avoid unnecessary phosphorus and potassium applications. High soil tests do not require additional inputs.
- Perform tillage operations only when necessary and under proper soil conditions. Deep tillage should only be performed when a compacted zone is detected and soil conditions are dry (usually late summer).
- Take advantage of crop rotation — corn grown after soybeans will typically yield 10% to 15% more than corn grown after corn.
Thomison says that weather conditions this spring will ultimately determine how well growers will be able to follow the recommended production practices.
“Growers didn’t get the opportunity last fall to get into their fields and do some of the necessary fieldwork after harvest because of the weather. What kind of weather we get in April will determine what growers do to get their fields ready for planting,” Thomison says.
If April is cool and wet, the foremost attention should be given to management practices that will expedite crop establishment, Thomison says.
“Consider limiting field seedbed preparation to leveling ruts that may have been left by last year’s harvest. Disc or field cultivate very lightly to level,” he says. “Keep time expended on tillage passes and other preparatory operations to a minimum. Such work will provide minimal benefits if it results in further planting delays.”