by Mike Meier, Regional Sales Agronomist IA
Mother Nature always seems to keep things interesting. This season was not that different from most when looking at the variability and extremes. Across most of the country, we have had a dryer year and a continued dry trend. And while some areas are dealing with extreme droughts not far away other areas are saturated and perhaps too wet. The Midwest in particular has been very sporadic in weather conditions, disease challenges, and ultimately yield. In close proximity, record corn yields are next door to major disappointments. No doubt these extreme variabilities will continue and fortunately not all limiting factors in crop production are just weather-related. Some areas of our programs we have control over and can better prepare for the challenges ahead. Ask yourself. How can we build resiliency into our crop production? Farmers should always strive to improve and conducting an evaluation of season-long decisions will help educate us for seasons to come.
Here are some targeted questions to ask about major areas and phases of your crop’s life. Consider outlining and segmenting these major events and timings when evaluating your whole program. Look at each decision made as a season-long effect and outcome. Think about if you had a choice and the impact on each of these outcomes were reasons that couldn’t necessarily be blamed on Mother Nature. Did you choose the right approach or products? Is there room for improvement?
- How quickly did the crop emerge?
- How uniform was the stand?
Even and timely emergence success can start back in the shop preparing the planter. Look at the number of plants that emerged outside of 3 days from each other. Plants behind by a couple of days or more never fully catch up and can usually be tracked all the way to harvest. If something was drastically wrong with emergence, was their seed depth variability and questionable furrow integrity. Perhaps improper down pressure or wet conditions contributed to the wider range of emergence. Maybe some seed injury from high salt fertilizers impeded the process. Our L-CBF 7-21-3 MKP starter is concentrated but gentle. We see solid stands and uniform emergence.
- Did you dig roots and see any compaction issues?
- What limited root growth?
Healthy root development is the foundation for season-long results. Digging roots early can help determine progress or weaknesses. We are looking to see if roots are compromised by poor planting conditions and potential compaction. Look for roots impaired by salt fertilizers versus robust root mass with signs of biological activity (more soil clinging to roots). QLF Liquid Carbon-Based Fertilizers buffer out high concentrations of nutrients while fostering a relationship with biology. Check for not only the mass of roots but the health of roots and how much soil is glued to the roots. More mucilage is present with more biological activity. Mucilage enhances soil aggregate stability (Guckert et al. 1975; Morel et al. 1990; Czarnes et al. 2000) and possesses a high intrinsic affinity for water, when fully hydrated, water content 100,000 times greater than its dry weight (McCully and Boyer 1997).
- Did your plants have any stress?
- How fast or slow was early growth development?
A lot of yield potential is determined early on. Identifying and reducing stressors can help maintain a smooth transition throughout the vegetative growth stages. Using nutritional products like L-CBF BOOST and L-CBF Amino15 with post emerge spray passes can improve plant health and performance. Tracking growth stages relative to GDU’s is a consistent guideline to comparing season to season. Did your crop demonstrate an aggressive growth curve or did it lag behind? If you had slow-growing, did you see any deficiencies, and at what stage? Placements banded off the row, such as dual placement with the planter, utilizing a relay system, combining In Furrow + 2×2. Our research demonstrated the value of BOOST added with liquid nitrogen and phosphorus banded 2×2 off the row for two consecutive years.
- How well did the ears pollinate?
- Did the weather, insect pressure, or diseases impact pollination?
Completing pollination after all the yield potential practices you established during the early growth stages is a very critical phase to finishing the crop. Look at corn silks and see how well you completed fertilization. Try to determine if there were some abortions and determine why. Rule out weather first and review nutrient demands or deficiencies next. Think of ways to address deficiencies and promote more plant health. Micronutrients can play a huge role in successes or failures at these critical stages of reproduction. Foliar feeding high-quality micros and utilizing the key adjuvant characteristics in BOOST can deliver more nutrition to the plant when and where it’s needed. Also, consider why insects seem to feed on weaker plants. The disease usually follows an injury or bite. If healthy plants are more resistant to pest attacks then perhaps less disease pressure can spread. Usually, the higher Brix plant sap and plant tissue with more complete proteins are more resistant to pest attacks.
- Did any visual nutrient deficiencies show up?
- Did you make extra nutrient applications to offset deficiencies?
Look at the sources of fertilizers, rates, and placement of all fertility. What would you do differently the next year and why? Farmers always are thinking ahead and questioning or second-guessing. If you can identify where nutrients fall short at critical times then you’re halfway there in fixing a yield-limiting problem. It’s almost impossible to do anything about something you didn’t measure. Tissue tests help compliment and record where we fall short on our soil test. Obvious deficiencies are easy to spot but sometimes tissue or sap analysis can help uncover the limiting factors in your fertility program. Running out of nitrogen in a program isn’t always solved by applying more. Your soils help hold and dish out more Nitrogen. Good to know what your soils are supplying. Changing rates and leaving check strips can help chart out a graph that can better explain how well your soils are delivering nutrients. L-CBF BOOST 4-0-3-2S added to liquid nitrogen both in a pre-emerge pass or when the crop is actively growing through a side-dress pass helps move, mineralize, and deliver nutrients to the plant while working with biology and natural nutrient cycles. A fertility program is not usually resolved by just adding what chemistry is short. Biology plays a big role and you need to understand how you can tap into this important part of your soil and crops life.
For this short article, we wanted to get you to start thinking about all the segments of crop production and critical areas we need to evaluate from germination to the combine. You can create your own list and expand this evaluation to fit your own operation.
Here are some more segments of crop production and questions to ask yourself.
- What diseases did you have?
- When did disease pressure arrive?
- What fungicide or other products did you apply when?
- How much yield do you think you lost to disease?
- What insects did you see?
- When did the insect pressure arrive?
- What pesticide or other products did you apply when?
- How much yield do you think you lost to insect pressure?
- How did the weather affect grain fill?
- Did you have enough nitrogen/nutrients to finish grain fill?
- Were all the ears uniform in size?
- Did your yields meet your expectation for that field?