Kernels of Knowledge

March 11, 2011 07:08 PM
Kernels of Knowledge

Cotton is king in Dixie, but corn is gaining ground in many states throughout the South. Along with the increase, Southern growers are requesting more agronomic information pertinent to corn production and management.

In response, Farm Journal launched its inaugural Corn College for the South this past January in conjunction with the 2011 Ag Connect Expo. Farm Journal Field Agronomist Ken Ferrie and Associate Field Agronomist Missy Bauer hosted 75 farmers during the two-day event in Atlanta, Ga.

"Farmers were enthusiastic and asked a lot of questions about corn growth and development and other agronomic factors that can help increase yields," Bauer reports.

Calendar of Events

Farm Journal Field Agronomists Ken Ferrie and Missy Bauer are hosting several Corn College sessions this summer, designed with your crop production needs in mind. Visit to learn more and register.

The Systems Approach. Bauer and Ferrie focused on explaining the Systems Approach to growing corn, which "provides the foundation for taking yields to a higher level," Ferrie says. "It helps farmers understand how many different variables there are that they have to manage to achieve top yields."

Ferrie explains that there are many details farmers have to be on top of in the process, including seed selection, planting, tillage practices, disease and insect control and soil density.

"It’s easy to focus on one thing, but farmers need to bring all of the components together for success," he adds. "The more parts of the system you address, the bigger your outcome."

Southern farmer Jeff Webster says that while he has grown corn all of his life, he believes there are management practices he can still improve upon.

"I’m here to learn from other guys about what they’re doing that might help me in my operation and to communicate what I’m doing with no-till and cover crops that could benefit them," says Webster, who grows dryland corn near New Hope, Ala.

Webster, along with Tommy Young of Tuckerman, Ark., and Nick Teague of Ripley, Tenn., anchored a corn producer panel discussion where they summarized their individual growing practices and answered audience questions.

Ferrie says the panel members discussed various agronomic and management practices they use in their operations. Then, he and Bauer were able to emphasize the elements they believe are fundamental to corn growing success.

"Basic fertility, planting, population and ear count are critical to yield," Ferrie says. "As we move up the pyramid and look at other practices, the various elements are still important but not necessarily as critical."

Bauer agrees: "When you focus on getting the fundamentals of corn growing right, you dramatically increase the likelihood of a successful season."

She adds that farmers need to ask themselves whether there are fundamental practices that they need help with and to not be afraid to delegate them to others.

Managing water is a fundamental requirement for producing a successful corn crop in the South, Young notes.

"On our farm, we try to use precision practices in everything we do, and that includes how we utilize water," reports Young, who grows corn, rice, wheat and soybeans with his nephews Jim and Blake in northeast Arkansas.

To accomplish that, Young puts an annual water management plan in practice on his farm each year.

He says he appreciated the practical information and plans to attend more Corn College events in the future.

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