By Jon Zuk, regional agronomist, WinField United
Take advantage of this time out of the field to determine your 2018 corn nutrient management strategy. Hybrids need nourishment from planting through all critical growth stages. Mapping out your corn nutrient strategy now will help ensure you’re properly nourishing your hybrids from the very start of the season.
Here are some tips to help get your corn plant nutrition program off to a strong start.
1. Ensure proper hybrid placement.
Set up your plants for success by placing hybrids correctly. For example, without the right soil type for the root structure of a particular hybrid, essential nutrients can’t get into the plant. Work closely with your agronomist to identify hybrid-specific data, including response to soil type, response to nitrogen, response to crop rotation and response to population, so you can place hybrids appropriately.
Another important piece of information to consider is a hybrid’s emergence scores. If you like to plant early, it’s important to choose a hybrid with strong emergence scores that can maintain vigor throughout variable spring conditions. Come spring, plant hybrids with higher scores for early emergence to get your crop off to the best start.
2. Plant seed at the correct depth; be choosy about soil conditions.
Keeping spring temperature swings in mind, I typically recommend a planting depth of 1¾ inches. Temperatures tend to be slightly more consistent below a 1-inch soil depth. In some parts of the country, corn seed planted in that first inch of soil can be subjected to 40-degree temperature variances. Planting in proper soil conditions helps establish ideal seed-to-soil contact, water imbibition and proper initiation of root growth.
3. Use a nitrogen stabilizer.
If you have planted a hybrid that is highly responsive to nitrogen, not only is it important to manage nitrogen season-long, but also to use a nitrogen stabilizer to protect the investment in your seed and your fertilizer program. Talk with your agronomist about what stabilizer would work best with your program and what the proper application timing would be.
4. Use a starter fertilizer for a preemergent nutrient boost.
Encourage emergence at planting with an in-furrow application of starter coupled with a phosphorus fertilizer enhancer. Phosphorus is immobile in the soil and hard for a plant to get into its root system. Applying phosphorus in the spring gets it right next to the root zone to optimize that initial uptake. A balanced starter can also promote emergence. There are many starter fertilizers on the market, so talk with your customers about which one best fits their particular programs.
5. Apply a plant growth regulator.
Applying a plant growth regulator (PGR) helps set up corn plants for success. A PGR can help promote a larger root system, which can result in quicker and more efficient nutrient uptake, faster emergence and stronger stalks. Not any PGR will do the trick, so be sure to talk with your agronomist about the right one for your fields. These applications can be especially beneficial for early-planted hybrids.
6. Use hybrid-specific data and tissue sampling for in-season nutrient management.
Combine in-season imagery (ISI) with tissue sampling to be sure you’re getting needed nutrients into the plant from emergence through vegetative growth stages. To determine how each specific hybrid might respond to various applications, use response-to-nitrogen and response-to-fungicide scores.
For example, if you have a hybrid that’s highly responsive to nitrogen and you’re planning to make a side-dress application, take a tissue sample to determine if there are other deficiencies such as potassium, sulfur or zinc that you can address. Correcting any deficiencies will help make your nitrogen application more efficient and optimize your overall yield potential.
7. Use precision ag to target nutrient placement.
Some of the biggest gains in sustainability and yield potential come from applying nutrients closer to the time crops use them. Soil samples, past yield maps and ISI can help tell us areas where yield potential may be falling behind or where there is potential for increase. After that, well-timed tissue and/or soil sampling can indicate key nutrient levels so you know where and when product should be applied, along with exactly how much. This helps reduce over-fertilization and nutrient runoff while helping optimize crop production. It can also save you time and money on nutrient and application costs.
Follow these tips and use all the tools that fit your situation to make informed in-season nutrient management decisions. Talk with your local WinField United agronomist about how you can put similar practices into play on your operation.