Southern Style

March 10, 2012 10:28 AM
Southern Style

Farmers meet in Mississippi for Corn College

Corn seedlings now sprout each spring in fields across the South where cotton once reigned
supreme. Because commodity prices have favored corn in recent years, many Southern farmers have made the switch on their farms.

"We’d always grown corn, but it was mainly for rotational purposes. Today it’s an important cash crop," says Lee Graves, who farms near Somerville, Tenn.

For that reason, Graves attended the recent Corn College in the South event to advance his corn management knowledge. Farmers from nine states attended the seminar, which was sponsored by AgriGold, Agrotain, BASF and SFP.

Farm Journal Field Agronomists Ken Ferrie and Missy Bauer focused on the Systems Approach to growing corn during the one-day program in Southaven, Miss.

"The Systems Approach 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 corn yields."

Ferrie explains that there are many details farmers have to address in any given season, including seed selection, planting, tillage practices, disease and insect control, fertility and soil density.

"It’s easy to focus on one thing, but farmers need to bring all those components together for success," he adds. "The more parts of the system that you can take care of, the better your yield outcome at harvest."

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

Tennessee farmer Brandon Karcher says he now understands how important nitrogen management is for corn growth and development. He plans to put that knowledge to use this season.

"We’ve been too late on our nitrogen applications, especially sidedress," he says. "We probably need to put the sidedress on quicker or front-load our nitrogen, and we’ll probably do some of both this year."

Karcher expects the change will help his dryland corn crop get off to a strong start before heat and dry weather set in for the summer.

Focus on weeds. A good canopy provides the added benefit of reducing weed pressure, says Larry Steckel, University of Tennessee Extension row-crop weed specialist.

Steckel, who discussed weed-control practices during the event, encourages Southern farmers to implement control measures a month before planting to target marestail and continue their weed-control practices for 30 days postharvest to address the long germination period of Palmer amaranth.

Farmers who aggressively treat weed problems early benefit from fewer weed seeds the following year, an important factor given the amount of weed resistance in the region. Steckel says Tennessee has more than 2 million crop acres infested with at least one resistant weed.

To counter the spread of resistance, he tells growers to spray gramoxone immediately after harvest, disk or bush-hog fields, or use a combination.

"It’s become very clear to me that the solution to resistant weeds is not completely in a jug," he says.

Steckel expects more LibertyLink soybeans in Tennessee fields this year. "Don’t use Ignite like Roundup," he says. "Don’t spray big pigweeds and expect to get control. Anything under 6" you will kill, and anything over that you probably won’t kill."

Ignite is a contact herbicide, which means good coverage is essential. "You need about 15 gal. of water to get good coverage," Steckel says. "No one wants to carry more water to the field, but we have to do that to get the control we need."

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