As harvest wraps up, it’s time to start planning for the 2018 crop. Since what you do in the fall will have an important impact on next year’s yields, I’ve put together the following list of areas you should assess on your farm in the coming months.
Planter Performance: Planting seed in the right seedbed at the right depth and spacing is your most important goal. Here are a few things to keep in mind as you evaluate your planter’s 2017 performance:
Planting depth – Did you see even emergence? If not, consider investing in a planter with adjustable down pressure so you can better adapt to changing field conditions.
Plant spacing – Was your spacing consistent, or were there skips and doubles? Inconsistent seed drops or bounces can result in spacing issues and yield loss.
Sidewall compaction – How did you seedlings’ roots develop? Did the roots go down the seed trench and form “Mohawk” roots? If so, sidewall compaction or smearing may have limited the uptake of water and nutrients for the corn plant.
Seed Selection: What characteristics did you like or dislike about this year’s seed choices? Specifically, what did you observe in regards to:
Emergence and seedling vigor – Was there even emergence? Did your crop come out of the ground quickly? Some varieties are slower to emerge than others. As long as emergence is even and plant stands are not reduced, this is not usually an issue.
Plant health – What was your seed’s tolerance to Gray Leaf Spot and Northern Corn Leaf Blight? This was a lower disease pressure year, so seeds that fell to these diseases exhibited less tolerance for them. Soybean diseases have been low as well, including Sudden Death Syndrome (SDS).
Stress tolerance – How did your seeds respond to the heat and drought this year? This season was the first real test for many of our new varieties as they encountered early heat and a late drought. Specific areas to note include overall late-season plant appearance and ear development.
Stalk strength and root strength – How did your crop withstand wind storms this summer? Although not widespread, there have been some greensnap and root-lodging issues due to summer storms.
Uniform ears – Were ear sizes consistent? Did they vary according to soil type? Heat stress may have also had an impact on ear uniformity.
Fertility: Soil fertility often gets overlooked since phosphorus and potassium are already available in the soil. However, much like a bank account, too many withdrawals from the soil bank and few deposits can result in overdrafts. Your soil fertility checklist should include the following:
Soil samples – When did you last have soil samples taken? They should be updated every four years.
Soil variability – What is the variability in your field? The more soil types and farming practices there are on your farm, the greater the need for grid or zone sampling.
Nutrient deficiencies – Were there any visual nutrient deficiencies this year? Potash deficiencies were a problem for many farmers due to the dry summer.
Nitrogen plan – How did your nitrogen plan perform? Overall, our nitrogen loss was minimal throughout growing season. If it had been a normal or wet year, what would you change about your plan?
Weed Control: This was the first year dicamba-tolerant soybeans were used in Iowa. Dicamba is definitely a tool that should be considered if other options are no longer doing the job against weeds like waterhemp. It does, however, require extra management in application. Keep the following in mind for your 2018 weed control program:
Pre-emerge performance – How did your pre-emerge products work? Inconsistent control or early breaks force us to use post-emerge products that can be inconsistent in controlling tough weeds like waterhemp.
Burndown performance – If you are no-tilling, how did your burndown products work? Did you change your tillage practices or plant cover crops for the first time? Starting clean is a major component to staying clean the rest of the year.
Post-applied performance – How did your post-applied products work? Waterhemp is tough to control in soybeans when herbicide is post-applied. Although there aren’t many post-applied products for waterhemp, the advent of Liberty and dicamba beans provide some additional options.
Taking time to assess this year’s crop while it is fresh in your mind will help you make good business decisions as you plan your 2018 crop inputs. As a result, you could see big dividends in terms of yield next year.
As always, feel free reach out to your local Key Cooperative Agronomist or Centrol Precision Ag Specialist for all your agronomy and technology needs.