In episode 11 of Corn College TV, head to the field with Farm Journal Associate Field Agronomist Missy Bauer to learn the importance of preharvest scouting. Bauer says there are lessons to be learned from a late season ear count.
“Yield monitors can provide good information from the field, but they are limited in the information they provide,” she explains. “Get in your fields and take an ear count, which will give a better picture of things we can improve on.”
To take an ear count, measure 1/1000th of an acre. Peel back husks on the ears to see what the ear looks like. Separate full ears from half ears. Count the number of ears.
“Don’t include stunted ears from late emerging plants,” Bauer says.
Bauer gives these guidelines for the difference in plant count and ear count. In corn after soybeans, an acceptable difference would be 1,200 per acre. And in corn-on-corn, a tolerable different could be 2,000 per acre.
“If your ear count and plant count differ more than those tolerances, then there are definite areas we can improve your production,” she says.
To know if you have enough population, look at the tip fill.
“I like to see at least ½” to 1” of kernels pull back on the ears. If every ear is filled to the tip, it tells us we can go up on populations,” Bauer says.
Another important pre-harvest check is to understand standability because the last thing you want to do is harvest down corn.
“Go in and do checks for quality of stalks to determine if there are certain fields we should get in first,” Bauer says. “Do the push test to feel for weakness of the stalks. If it snaps or breaks, then, I’ll want to look at the inside of the plants and their stalk. It will tell us what kind of cannibalization we have in there. When this plant goes to fill out the ear, if it happens too early, the stalk gets cottony, or looks like Styrofoam.”
Bauer says that if the stalk condition goes all the way to the bottom, it will have major effects on standability.
“Ideally we like to have the two to three bottom nodes of the stalk hearty and clean,” she says. “And if we have scout and find major problems with standability, make a harvest list order.”