Beck's Blog

From Our Family Farm to Yours

PFR Report: Observations - Make them before it’s too late!

Published on Wednesday, October 2, 2019

Every growing season is different, and quantifying those differences in determining their effect on our crop will enable us to adapt and overcome the constant challenges that we face as farmers. Beck’s PFR team has put an emphasis on scouting and gathering observations. This allows us to learn from the challenges we face throughout the growing season and how they correlate into the results we gather at harvest.

For example, this year our Ohio PFR site experienced a saturated spring followed by an exceptionally dry summer. Several corn plots showed early signs of nitrogen (N) deficiency shortly after pollination. Soil nitrate samples were taken and showed an adequate amount of N available in the soil. However, thanks to the extended dry period, the N wasn’t able to be taken up by the plant, which was what we saw in the plant tissue tests.

Soil type and water holding capacity played a large role in the severity of N deficiency that was observed. The tissue samples validate the N stress differences that were observed between the higher OM (darker) soils and the low OM (lighter) soils. Running short on N will have an impact on yield, but it was also interesting to observe how these plants were affected in terms of disease, premature plant death, and late-season standability. This is just one example of how matching visual observations and agronomic findings can help you better understand the outcome that is harvested this fall.

There’s Still Time!

Have you ever been surprised by the yield results in a particular field? Yield numbers on the monitor in the fall can leave us overjoyed, or they can leave us wondering what happened. In order to properly identify the causes of our success or failures, we need more than just harvest maps. Fortunately, we can still make in-field observations and draw conclusions all the way up to harvest.

Suggestions for Late-Season Scouting


  • Plant Stand: Count final plant stands vs. the planted population,  observe the variation in stalk diameters and ear height with different final stands.
  • Pollination: What was the influence that population and plant spacing had on tip back. This can be an important factor to consider when corn is planted in the field next time.
  • Nitrogen: Take stalk nitrate tests up to three weeks after black layer and compare different treatments you may have in your fields.
  • Plant Health: Note disease pressure/premature death, and relationship to kernel depth and standability.  Did fungicide treatments have an impact?
  • Stalk Integrity: Dig roots and split stalks in order to evaluate crown and vascular intactness.  Perform a stalk push test to help with harvest scheduling.


  • Count harvest population vs. emerged population, note differences especially relative to planting populations. Do higher planting populations result in higher final stands?
  • Check late-season plant health, disease pressure, presence of green stem, and seed quality.
  • Observe variation in seed size especially as it relates to specific areas of the field.
  • Note the presence of sudden death syndrome (SDS) and collect soybean cyst Nematode (SCN) samples after harvest.

I would encourage and challenge you to scout your fields before harvest to not only draw conclusions about your 2019 crop but more importantly, to be able to make changes for the 2020 growing season.

Good luck and be safe this harvest season.


Comments (0)Number of views (9259)
Jared Chester

Jared Chester

Other posts by Jared Chester
Contact author

Leave a comment

Add comment