Want to harvest 300 bu. corn? You’ll want to start by planting a 300 bu. stand.
It may sound obvious, but Farm Journal Field Agronomist Missy Bauer suggests that farmers too often forget to connect all the different pieces that add up to strong yields. “We might do a really good job on our fertility program, but we’re missing the boat on weed control,” she said at Farm Journal Corn College in Coldwater, Mich., on Thursday.
To protect those bushels and boost farmers’ bottom line, she advocates a systems approach that integrates planting, soil conditions, tillage, yield-killers such as pests, weeds, and disease; seed choices; harvest loss data, and fertility programs.
As you might expect with a systems approach, you won’t be able to do this all on your own. “It’s all about what you know and who you know,” said Bauer.
She encouraged farmers to reach out to all potential resources of information and insight: consultants, equipment dealers, fertilizer dealers, seed dealers, universities, other growers, and more. For those people who work directly with your farm as employees or advisers, you’ll want to keep them in the loop about any adjustments you plan to make to your farming practices.
“I’ve seen big mistakes happen because people don’t understand the implications of a change,” Bauer said. “You need to keep people informed.”
Ready to begin? Here are a handful of strategies she recommends for those want to grow 300 bu. corn from the ground up.
- Get to know your soil, which may require soil testing and experimenting with management zones so you make appropriate agronomic decisions. Mother Nature will always be a major factor for farmers, Bauer said, “but we can be more proactive in our approach.”
- Have a “pest boss” who is in charge of managing weeds, insects, and disease. That means regular scouting, keeping up-to-date on pests and other threats, and making timely recommendations. It’s best to give this important responsibility to someone internal to your farm, but if your labor force is already stretched thin, outsource the work. “You can’t tell an employee they’re in charge of pest management and then never give them the time to do it,” Bauer said.
- Keep good records of what genetics you planted where and when. Plant diseases can overwinter on residue, and if you plant the same variety in the same field the next spring, you are putting your yield at risk.
- Check your fields, especially those that have struggled, as the growing season ends. “Schedule high-risk fields for an early harvest,” Bauer said. “You’ll prevent harvest-time disasters and yield loss.”
- Pay attention to harvest loss on the front and the back. Even just a few kernels here and there can add up over your acres. “There are times when I think guys are leaving a lot in the field,” Bauer says.
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What strategies have helped you protect bushels on your farm? Let us know in the comments.