Is Your Corn Crop Happy or Grumpy this Season?

July 16, 2013 05:12 AM

If you want to harvest a bin-busting corn crop this fall, then never let it have a bad day during the growing season. Feed it adequate nitrogen along the way.

Some of the field test plots that Ken Ferrie’s staff is tending this summer contain tall, robust corn plants. Upon closer inspection, it appears there are short, sickly corn plants in the same plot.

What gives?

Simply, some of the plants have received regular meals of nitrogen at each step of their growth and development. The rest have had to forego the nutrient--even when they needed it--and the nitrogen restriction is obvious to the group of farmers and retailers checking out the plants.

"You want to keep enough nitrogen available at all growth stages, so crop growth never slows down," explains Ferrie, Farm Journal field agronomist, to the 2013 Farm Journal Corn College participants.

"Nitrogen-deficient corn in the beginning of the growing season gives up yield potential," Ferrie adds. "Nitrogen-deficient corn in the late reproductive stages costs actual yield."


Take a Systems Approach

Figuring out how much nitrogen your corn crop needs, what type it needs and when it needs the nutrient is a trickier task than it seems at first glance. The best way to go about the process is to use what Ferrie refers to as the Systems Approach, a set of agronomic management practices designed to help you minimize risks and capitalize on the opportunity for profits.

While the system involves a variety of factors, it is based on one guiding principle, Ferrie says: "Every practice you use is intrinsically linked and ultimately impacts yield."

Here are seven valuable management considerations Ferrie offers up to help you plan your next nitrogen program in corn.

1. Your field environment sets the tone for your application timing. The timing sets the tone for your placement. Your placement sets the tone for the nitrogen sources.

2. Assess the environment for every field; that is crucial in building a nitrogen program. Know your risk of loss from leaching, denitrification or volatility.

3. Pick the right nitrogen sources, timing and placement. Doing those three things is much more important than trying to pick the right rate.

4. Assess the carbon penalty potential based on the amount and type of carbon left from your last crop. Don’t forget to assess a carbon penalty for grass cover crops.

5. Consider that split applications and nitrogen inhibitors may be part of the balance of your nitrogen plan.

6. If corn greens up right after a sidedress application, it is telling you it was waiting for the nitrogen, and it was giving up yield potential in the process.

7. Season-long scouting is the only way to get a handle on nitrogen needs and management. Knowing when you run short is more important than knowing how much you ran short. As Ferrie emphasizes, "Scout, scout, scout and then make a plan."



Thank you to the 2013 Corn College sponsors:

AgriGold, BASF, Chevrolet, ESN/Agrium, Great Plains, Honeywell, Koch, Novozymes, Precision Planting, SFP, Top Third Marketing

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