The right resources and management strategies are necessary in order to optimize and produce high corn yields. Of course, favorable weather plays a huge role, but in terms of what can be controlled, here are a few key areas where ag retailers can work with their growers on ways to improve their corn yield potential.
Results have shown that crop rotation practices can enhance crop yields. Annually rotating crops can also improve soil properties and decrease pressures associated with disease, weeds, insects and other pest problems.
It’s important to plant when soil conditions are positive, as seedling issues occur more often in wet soils and with cool soil temperatures. Wet soil can cause soil compaction, restricting root development. Cool soil temperatures can also greatly affect plant growth. As a reference, soil temperatures at a 2-inch soil depth should be above 50 degrees (F) prior to planting, for better emergence.
Starter fertilizers are a crucial part of a high-yield program. They help a plant’s ability to uptake immobile nutrients, like phosphorus and zinc, especially while the plants’ roots are developing.
The traditional wide-row planting system can limit corn’s ability to efficiently utilize resources, particularly sunlight, water and nutrients. Narrowing the crop rows can increase productivity and improve the plant’s response to higher plant populations.
Dr. Fred Below from the University of Illinois previously explained in his “Seven Wonders of the Corn Yield World” presentation that plant nutrition and protection are key. Growers who are seeing record-setting yields strategically combine excellent plant nutrition and protection with a high density of the best racehorse hybrids to ensure the crop is never stressed.
Dr. Below further discusses the ideal corn strategy in an interview clip from West Central’s LIFT Summit in June 2016.
So my ideal strategy for high yield starts with getting that plant off to a good start. I want to have every plant emerge at the same time. I don’t want plants behind. I don’t ever want the crop stressed, and I want to be able to manage more plants. I want to feed and protect those [plants,] and I want to carry through for the entire season since I never know what factors are going to have the biggest impact. But it’s all about making sure that the crop is not stressed, as much as I’m able to.