4 Problems to Scout Your Corn Fields for Now

July 29, 2013 07:04 AM

Head to your fields to see if you have any of these issues that could cause yield reductions this fall.

7 19 13 Iowa 3Your corn has the most yield potential while it is still in the bag. Now that it is in the ground, many factors are at play. Missy Bauer, Farm Journal Associate Field Agronomist, says farmers should scout their fields now to identify issues that they will need to be prepared for at harvest.

While some of the problems may not be fixable for this year, you can make it a point to manage for them next spring. Here are four considerations Bauer reviewed with retailers and farmers during the 2013 Michigan Corn College.

Uneven Stands

Bauer says your fields should have the picket-fence look, meaning they should be even and consistent. "Uneven stand establishment in corn can reduce a field’s yield potential from the first day you place the seed in the ground," she says.

Corn germinates unevenly most often because of:

  • Uneven planting depth
  • Moisture variability
  • Temperature variability
  • Poor seed-to-soil contact (cloddy, rough seedbeds; uneven crop residue cover; poorly adjusted planter)
  • Soil crusting (emergence)
  • Insect or disease damage


Bauer says slowing the planter down to 4.5 to 5 mph is the first advice she gives farmers to get a more consistent stand. She also encourages farmers to check the levelness of their planter, especially as they move from one field to the next.

Double Plants

Related to uneven stands, Bauer says you should also specifically look for any instances of two stalks being closer together than normal. "Double plants equal too much competition," she says. "Doubles usually do not produce a harvestable ear."

The additional down side to doubles is, even though they aren’t typically harvestable, they still soak up valuable nutrients and moisture.

If you think you are getting uneven or inconsistent seed distribution in the field, check your planter for any wear or tear before you go to the field again next spring.

Uneven Ear Development

If growth and development of the corn stalk are uniform, but the ears are not consistent in size and grain fill, you’re probably not dealing with a planter problem. Bauer says this problem is probably caused by a disease, insect pressure, herbicide damage or the weather.

Strong Root Growth

Bauer suggests digging samples of good and poor plants in your field for evaluation. "Once we dig a root ball, what we want to know is what is happening to the yield power system of the plant," she says. That includes looking over the first three sets of crown roots.

If all of your crown roots are turning sideways – you have a real problem because your plant is unable to take up the water and nutrients it needs, she says. Ideally you want roots to grow down at a 35- to 40-degree angle for optimum moisture and nutrient absorption.


Thank you to the 2013 Corn College sponsors:

Agrotain, BASF, Great Plains Mfg., Novozymes, Plant Tuff, Precision Planting, SFP, Wolftrax

Catch up on full coverage of Corn College at FarmJournalCornCollege.com.


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