Coming off two years of highly variable yields (across the U.S. and within fields), here are the top considerations for the coming season from Farm Journal Field Agronomists Ken Ferrie and Missy Bauer:
Focus on fertility. "Although profitability per acre might change next year, farmers should not pull out anything from their fertility program that will cripple yields," Ferrie says. "Maintain your soil testing program and focus on the fundamentals of fertility."
Hybrid placement. When it comes to positioning hybrids, start with the information from your seed dealer, then test and review these technologies on your farm. "It’s important to know the weakness of the hybrid," Bauer says. "It may be the best yielding hybrid for a field, but you have to manage the weakness to maximize its potential."
If you dealt with down corn due to insecticide trait failure, it’s time to think of that event as a suppression tool, not a tool for control, Ferrie advises. "But I will caution that I was in a couple of fields that down corn was attributed to corn rootworm when it was actually a stalk quality issue," he adds. "Before any major decisions are made, I encourage farmers to review and verify their scouting procedures."
Weed resistance. The issue of weed resistance is growing in importance with each passing season. "Make sure pockets are identified and map out where the weed escapes were so that you can identify the species and the herbicide program," Ferrie says. "You might need to look at your tank mixes because the same thing you did this year might not be viable next year."
Disease issues. While 2013 was disease-free for the most part, the conditions for northern corn leaf blight were perfect, and the inoculant is out there. Farmers should pay special attention in corn-on-corn fields, Ferrie cautions. Goss’s wilt should also be considered when making hybrid decisions because there is no application to control that disease.
Nitrogen management. As farmers pencil out their nitrogen plan for 2014, Ferrie advocates managing nitrogen throughout the year, even if anhydrous or ammonium sulfate has already been applied.
"Reacting with timely nitrogen management can bring a big bump to yields," Ferrie says.
"Our nitrogen management plan will be driven by the environment," Bauer adds, "which puts the fall- and winter-applied nitrogen at greatest risk. Protect yourself on the other side and pull nitrate samples."