By counting ears in August, Michigan farmer Weston Wiler can evaluate the planting process as well as gauge yields.
This practice sets the stage for higher yields
Weston Wiler will tell you that counting corn adds up to a better crop. Each season, Wiler evaluates his fields by taking corn stand and ear counts throughout his 4,000-plus-acre corn crop, grown in the rolling hills of south-central Michigan, near Hillsdale.
The resulting information helps him determine a variety of things, from how well he and his crew planted the crop earlier that spring to what he might anticipate for yield results at harvest.
Early summer signals the start of the process, with Wiler making random stand counts when the young corn is at the V3 or V4 growth stage.
"Everything you do is important, but that split second you go across that ground planting will define your level of success for the entire year with that crop," Wiler says.
His goal at planting is to establish good seed-to-soil contact. That and even planting depth contribute to uniform emergence, which leads to what Farm Journal Field Agronomist Ken Ferrie likes to call photocopied plants and ears.
|Use a tape measure to mark off the row length that corresponds with row spacing. Length of row equals 1/1000 of an acre.Source: University of Minnesota Extension Service
"Comparing corn stands to a picket fence is a way to measure how you did with seed singulation," Ferrie says. "Planter performance should be precise to give each plant an equal chance."
To consistently achieve uniform stands, Wiler says, he has slowed his planter down to nearly a walking speed.
"Maybe it takes an extra 20 minutes to plant a field, but what we get in return in ear count makes that additional time seem trivial," he says.
Uniform plant stands have a domino effect by contributing to the quality of corn ears.
Corn ear numbers are a good indicator of the yield potential of the field because yield is based on the number of ears per acre and the size of the ears (number of rows around, kernels long and kernel depth).
"A thousand ears per acre is equal to 5 bu. to 7 bu. per acre," explains Missy Bauer, Farm Journal Associate Field Agronomist.
Make it count. Wiler conducts corn ear counts each August and spends an average of three days per season on the process. Last year, he and four employees did ear counts on every farm that Wiler leases.
"We did a spot sample on every farm; we probably checked 100 fields," Wiler explains. "We were scouting for weeds and insects at the same time, so while it was a big undertaking, it was fairly efficient."
- Seed Guide 2011