Not every farm is capable of producing 260-bushel corn in a growing season. Management efforts need to reflect field level performance in order to maximize profitability. Some fields are able to be more profitable in a high technology, high management system such as high population, nitrogen, fertility and fungicide. The basic principle is, with a high technology system, if you omit one piece, for example, fungicide, the penalty is generally greater than if you add that one piece to a low management system, such as adding a fungicide to a low population, low nitrogen, low input field. However, this does not necessarily mean it does not make economic sense to do so in certain situations. For example, some hybrids respond well to additional nitrogen but not an increase in population. You might also have hybrids that respond well to fungicide and increase your return on investment if you are using a lower management system. Conversely, if you are using a starter fertilizer with a hybrid that simply does not respond to it and your fertility is already adequate or excess, you are simply throwing away money. Always keep in mind the four R’s for nutrients; right source, right rate, right time and the right place. Your local Two Rivers Cooperative agronomist is a great resource to help you understand, sort and apply this knowledge to your farm. We have been trained to help you place all the right hybrids in the right field and use the right technologies to best benefit you. Beyond those, The Seven Wonders of Corn Yield by Dr. Fred Below of the University of Illinois can also be a good source of reference.
Weather is the one thing we cannot control, and coincidentally, it is most influential of yields. Combine it with the second wonder of corn yield, nitrogen, and you have over 50% of your total yield. These two end up going hand in hand since the weather has an effect on how much nitrogen will be available for the plant.
I am sure you are all aware that selecting the correct hybrid for your field is going to affect your yield. Certain hybrids are going to perform better because they were bred for different environments. The difference between choosing the correct hybrid could be the difference of up to 50 bushels per acre.
Your previous crop is also going to make a difference in your yields. Additional nitrogen will need to be applied to overcome the yield penalty associated with continuous corn rotations. Aside from limiting nutrient availability, you can also run into a build-up of autotoxic compounds that can stunt growth and limit your yields.
What is the ideal planting population? The difficult thing is there is no magic number for all fields and hybrids. It will depend on what variety you are going to use, and that is where your local Two Rivers agronomist can also help you out!
Tillage is another factor to take into consideration, and it also is something that is not a one-size-fits-all. Depending on geography and your crop rotation, you may take a different approach than even your neighbor. Doing some research on practices that best suit your operation may be the best choice to make sure you are fully utilizing all of your resources.
The seventh and final wonder of corn yield is growth regulators. Growth regulators are available in a wide variety of products to support corn growth and yield. Common products include seed treatments, ethylene blockers, and strobilurin fungicides such as Headline AMP. While growth regulators do not end up to be the most significant factor in increasing your yield, it is an additional way to help increase their potential.
Reviewing all of these is a great start to protecting your yields, but there are other factors to be considered. Drainage, pest control, soil pH and adequate levels of phosphorous and potassium will all play a part as well. Without tile drainage, much of our crop production would not be possible. Also, pests do not help your crop yields and having a plan to control them will make a difference to your bottom line should they become an issue. We know these decisions can be tough with the ever-changing technology, but that is what we are here for. We want to help you succeed, so stop by to talk with any of us and have a safe planting season!