Farm Horizons, December 2013

Disappointed in your 2013 corn yield?

By Dave Schwartz
Certified crop advisor, Gold Country Seed

For the most part, 2013 was a very challenging year for local crop producers. The season started out cold and wet in April, May, and June; and then turned hot and dry in July, August, and September.

Many low areas of fields flooded, and clay knolls dried up, so the best crop was found on side hills.

Some areas that picked up timely rains are reporting good corn yields, but for the most part, growers are disappointed in their yields.

This may be one of those years where it is best to get fieldwork done, put the 2013 crop behind, and focus on planning for 2014.

Before moving on to 2014, I thought it may be worthwhile to discuss one management practice that I believe played a big role in this past year’s corn yield.

Nearly all corn fields that I walked in August were showing signs of nitrogen deficiency – yellow leaves at the base of the corn plant.

Nitrogen is mobile in the plant, so if plants are deficient, nitrogen moves to the ear, where it is needed most. This leaves lower leaves on the plant yellow.

Some of the most yellow fields were those that only had manure applied – no commercial nitrogen.

It’s possible, manure did not decompose with such cold, wet soil, so less nitrogen was released.

One other observation is that growers who sidedressed nitrogen in late June and early July, or used a nitrogen stabilizer, had much greener corn in August and better yields, resulting in 20 to 30 bushels more of grain per acre.

We had heavy rains June 21, 22, and 23. Much of Wright County had 3.5 to 5 inches of rain during this period. This created ideal conditions for nitrogen loss.

So, in the future, growers may want to consider applying nitrogen in spring with a stabilizer, or sidedressing an additional 40 to 50 pounds of nitrogen later in the growing season if it appears that the crop may be short of nitrogen.

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