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Agronomy Update

What to Scout for in May

Published on Tuesday, May 10, 2016

May can be a busy month. Most of us are planting soybeans, post-spraying corn, spraying burndown ahead of beans, and/or checking on maturing wheat. We have a lot happening all at the same time.

With that in mind, I thought I’d share some of the things I keep an eye on and field scout for during this busy month. My intent with this article is not to give you a “how-to” for each of these, but rather to let you know what you should be looking for and thinking about from a crop diagnostic perspective.

Early Nitrogen (N) Loss Risk Assessment in Corn

May is a good time to be thinking about which, if any, of your corn fields may be at risk for N loss and late-season deficiency. At this time, the corn is usually too immature to let you know it’s future N health and status. However, there are other things you can consider:

  1. When did I apply the bulk of the pre-plant N? How much rainfall have we had since that first N application? Was an N stabilizer used?

    I often refer to the weekly updates on The University of Missouri’s online Nitrogen Watch. It is a very useful tool that was developed to signal farmers in higher risk areas to get out and scout for N stress so rescue N application decisions can be made. It uses cumulative rainfall maps (see below) to identify high risk areas across the state. These high risk areas are where the amount of precipitation (from the time of pre-plant N application to when corn needs the N the most) is such that N losses to denitrification and leaching are probable.

  2. Do I have fields that are more poorly drained than others? Do I have landscape positions and soil types that hold water rather than shed water, subjecting them to denitrification losses?

  3. If I used a urea-based N source, was the urea incorporated either by tillage or rainfall after application?

Begin ranking the farms and fields this month that you perceive may have the greatest risk for N deficiency and develop a plan of action for N-health field scouting and diagnosis in June.

Corn and Soybean Stand Assessment

May is also a big month for crop stand assessments. There are a number of things to look for in addition to simply counting plants and calculating viable stands/A.

  1. Evaluate your planter performance and look at things like the consistency of planting depth across the planter. When counting stands, evaluate singulation by determining the percentage of skips/multiples you observe in 1000s/A. Assess the performance of hydraulic down-pressure systems across different soil conditions. Is planting depth is consistently maintained while minimizing soil surface and sidewall compaction? Another thing to look at is the performance of your seed firmer in its seed-soil contact and placement of the seed in the trench.

  2. If you deploy variable-rate seeding as a management strategy, go to field areas with different seeding rate prescriptions and conduct stand counts to determine if the actual seeding rate matches the target rates in your prescription.

  3. I have found that May is an outstanding time to spatially assess the impact of poor drainage on crop stand establishment. Look for areas where standing water and poor drainage negatively impact stand establishment. Document with photos or geo-locate with a handheld GPS so you can use this information in the off-season to assist with drainage improvement planning. It can be useful during discussions with landlords that cost-share field drainage improvements.

  4. Evaluate seedling diseases. Your Beck’s dealer, seed advisor and field agronomist can assist in looking for and documenting where corn and soybean seedling diseases impact stand establishment and plant health. There are also a number of good field guides and references that help you identify corn and soybean seedling diseases.

A few online resources include: The University of Illinois Crop Sciences, The University of Missouri Extension Plant Protection Programs, Iowa State University Extension Soybean Diseases

This is also a great time to evaluate differences in seedling disease and insect control between treated and untreated seed to document the performance of Escalate™ yield enhancement system on your products.

The Bugs

Insects to be scouted for this time of year include:

  1. Corn - wireworm, black cutworm, grubs, grape colaspis, flea beetle, seed corn maggot, occasionally armyworm, nematode activity

  2. Soybean - bean leaf beetle, and occasionally cutworm

As with seedling diseases, this is a great time to evaluate the performance of seed treatment and in-furrow or broadcast at-planting insecticide applications. Look for performance differences in seed treated with low rates of insecticide versus treatment with Poncho° 1250 in Beck’s Escalate seed treatment. We also see rodent activity and feeding this time of year.

Roots, Roots, Roots!

Dig up different plant varieties in different field landscape positions and look at root growth and development. Roots can tell you a lot about how the crop is doing and how it will continue to do as it grows and develops over the next few months. Look at soil structure, compaction and organic matter as it relates to root growth and development.

Chemical Program Performance, Weed Control, Resistance, and Herbicide Injury

May is also an important time to evaluate efficacy of chemicals used in your corn and soybean burndown and corn pre-emerge and early post programs. Look for weed escapes, weeds successfully controlled, escape weed pressure and height. Determine if there are populations of marestail, waterhemp, and ragweed resistant to your chemical program. Be on the lookout for any herbicide injury symptoms and impact on sensitive hybrids. Assess sprayer performance across the boom width (especially where GPS section command is used), in vehicle speed-up and slow-down areas, and in turn-rows to determine if there are any equipment or custom application issues that need to be addressed.

There are a ton of things to remember when scouting. It will be a busy month, but my hope is that you are always comfortable seeking out your Beck’s dealer, seed advisor, or myself as your agronomist, to walk your fields and successfully assess and diagnose crop health and viability.

We thank you for trusting us with your seed business and look forward to helping you anyway we can with field scouting, crop diagnostics, and product evaluation!








Escalate™ yield enhancement system is a trademark of Beck’s Superior Hybrids, Inc. Poncho° 1250 is a registered trademark of Bayer.

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David Hughes

David Hughes

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