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CropTalk: Corn — PFR Proven™ Success Strategies

February 2020

Published on Tuesday, February 04, 2020

If there is one thing that the 2019 growing season showed us, it’s that you can’t outguess the weather. For many, 2019 ended up being a year we wanted to put behind us. With Practical Farm Research (PFR)® looking at many products and practices across several locations, we have developed several key strategies that will help optimize yield potential and success. As discussed at many of our 2020 PFR Insight Meetings, we have determined five strategies that we believe will give farmers the highest likelihood to succeed and named them PFR Proven™ Success Strategies.

Early Planting - Every year there is a time frame at the beginning of the planting season when farmers question whether they should be in the field. This 17-year study (Figure 1.) suggests that if we err, we should err on the side of planting early. If you notice, there isn’t a lot of difference in yield potential from early April until the last half of May. In years like 2019 when some areas were cool and short on solar radiation, earlier planting allowed fields to maximize the amount of heat and sunlight they could capture and generally resulted in higher yielding fields. In years of extremes, the planting date on corn can have more of an effect than in a normal year. Field conditions should still dictate when a field is seeded, but, when conditions are right and you’re bumping up against the crop insurance date, early planting may provide your best outcome.

Closing Wheels - This PFR Proven success strategy for corn is one that is highly researched at Beck’s. Aftermarket closing wheels provide several agronomic enhancements over the factory-standard smooth solid rubber wheels. As shown below, one common characteristic across the PFR Proven wheels is the aggressive teeth around the outside of the wheel.

Aggressive teeth on the wheel is the key to providing an advantage over the solid rubber wheels. The teeth increase seed-to-soil contact by stitching the seed trench closed. A properly closed seed trench ensures that the seed is protected from the environmental extremes and herbicide damage during emergence. The teeth also aid in breaking up sidewall smearing of the seed trench, allowing for better root zone development to maximize the uptake of available nutrients early in the seedling’s development.

Starter on Both Sides of the Row (2x2x2) - Starter fertility programs are used across many crop management systems. While it does require some additional equipment on the planter, the flexibility of nutrient application allows farmers to increase nutrient efficiency through placement. Applying nutrients on both sides of the row allows farmers to increase the nutrient load in the row to minimize salt injury to early-season roots. Because we are trending to plant earlier in the season, some of the nutrients are not yet released in plant-available forms because the microbiology in the soil isn’t fully active due to cooler conditions. Applying a starter on both sides of the row ensures that there are nutrients available to sustain early seedling development and increases root interception, creating a more vigorous and healthy seedling.

Sidedress Nitrogen Applications - The idea behind making more than one application of nitrogen (N) is to minimize losses and maximize return on investment (ROI). In areas with a high amount of livestock manure or fall-applied anhydrous ammonia, providing a second application of N allows you to correct for weather losses that occurred prior to planting. Applications made after the plants have emerged allow you to maintain more available N during key growth stages like ear development, from V4 to V7, and late vegetative and early reproductive stages from V12 to R1. By minimizing losses, we can see yield increases and minimize the negative environmental impact of N applications, which, in some areas, are being closely observed.

Fungicide Applications - All the previous strategies for success in high-yielding corn environments are about minimizing plant stress, and fungicide applications are no different. Recommendations for fungicide applications should be based on disease pressure, stress mitigation, and environmental conditions. Applications at the VT growth stage have consistently provided the biggest ROI from a timing standpoint. During times of high water and nutrient demand, even short-term deficiencies can negatively impact yield potential. Applying a fungicide at VT helps the plant to be more efficient with water and nutrients. Beck's PFR team is dedicated to helping you make fungicide decisions on your farm. Trivapro® and Delaro® 325 SC are 2019 PFR Proven products.

When we look at the five PFR Proven Success Strategies in corn, the common theme is advancing your management strategies. The environment is the number one factor when it comes to unlocking the yield potential from any high-yielding hybrid. The last two extreme years taught farmers that more aggressive management was rewarded. These strategies should help shape how to move your operation into the future. If you are already implementing many of these top five strategies, I suggest diving into the 2019 PFR book to unlock the next strategy for your operation.

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Nate Mayer, CCA
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Nate Mayer, CCA

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