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Farmers: 7 Ways to Improve Your Corn Yield

By    |   Tuesday, 05 September 2017 10:38 AM

While weather may be important for high corn yields, there are a few proven ways to improve your corn yields that don’t involve doing a rain dance.

Technology and science have given farmers the tools to effectively increase corn yields over the last century.

Here are a few simple tried and tested methods to make sure you get the best results from your corn crops:

1. Employ a crop rotation strategy According to Delta Farm Press, more than 68 percent of the winners in the National Corn Growers Association Yield Contest employ crop rotation.

In fact, according to an article by Erick Larson, it may be the most important management practice for enhancing crop yields. That’s because crop rotation improves the soil quality and reduces the risk of weeds, diseases, insects, and pests.

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The University of Wisconsin’ Agronomy Department echoes this advice, listing fertility, pest management, and soil conservation as the major benefits of crop rotation. According to one of its studies, growing winter wheat before corn can lead to a 10- to 25-percent increase in grain yield.

2. Make sure your soil is healthy — While crop rotation may play a part in keeping your soil healthy, there are other factors that contribute to fertility.

The Corn and Soybean Digest suggests testing soil regularly to make sure it contains optimum pH levels. You’ll also want to make sure the soil contains the correct amounts of nutrients.

The University of Wisconsin’ Agronomy Department also suggests banding phosphorus and potassium with the planter and adding phosphorus (P) and potassium (K) below the soil’s surface for better uptake.

Delta Farm Press adds that it’s also important to check the temperature of your soil. Soil that’s too wet when you plant will hinder the development of roots, and soil temperatures affect germination rates.

Ideally, your soil should be 55 degrees Fahrenheit two inches down, and 50 degrees Fahrenheit at six inches.

3. Plant your crops early — The Corn and Soybean Digest recommends planting your crops as soon as the weather and soil are ready. They report that farmers are experiencing higher yields by planting almost a month earlier than usual.

Quoting Tim Maloney, a crop consultant in Janesville, Wisconsin, the site says today’s hybrid seeds are more than capable of handling early planting.

According to research by DuPont Pioneer, early planting lengthens your growing period and can result in earlier pollination. While planting dates are determined by the climate and soil quality, they suggest planting in the last three weeks of May to end up with yields more than 300 bu/acre.

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4. Choose hybrids with a proven track record — DuPont Pioneer believes that it’s selecting the right seeds that makes the biggest difference to your corn yield.

According to them, farmers need to match hybrid characteristics with those of their fields and environments to get the best results.

Bob Nielsen, Extension agronomist at Purdue University, agrees. In an article for the Corn and Soybean Digest, he said: “It's not only important to identify hybrids that perform well, but perform consistently well."

The University of Wisconsin’ Agronomy Department suggests choosing a hybrid that’s been proven to work under a number of different circumstances. Farmers should also base their choices on yield potential and stability, but they should also consider maturity, disease resistance, and pest management traits.

5. Feed your corn — Delta Farm Press says it’s important for farmers in higher rainfall areas to consider the effects of nitrogen loss.

An easy way to counteract this would be to use a nitrogen fertilizer when needed. DFP suggests applying a small amount of this fertilizer just after the plant starts growing and more just before the rapid growth stages. The idea is to reduce nitrogen loss and make more available when the crops need it most.

Delta Farm Press also encourages farmers to use a “starter fertilizer." Corn responds well to phosphorous and zinc, both immobile nutrients, in its root zone. Absorbing lots of these supplements in its early stages of growth gives the plants a better chance of strong growth.

6. Control ryegrass According to Brechbuhler Scales, ryegrass competes heavily with immature corn and seedlings and the best way to eliminate it is to catch it early.

Scientists from the Mississippi State University recommend applying herbicide applications in fall, winter, and spring to control ryegrass and other weeds.

DeDell Seeds also points out that weeds drain valuable nutrients away from new crops trying to grow.  Ideally, you should be managing weeds regularly to get the best out of your crop.

7. Scout your fields regularly — No matter how much planning you put into your crops before planting them, anything can happen while they’re growing.

The Corn and Soybean Digest recommends regularly monitoring your crops by foot to pick up on and fix any yield-limiting factors as soon as they arise.

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While weather may be important for high corn yields, there are a few proven ways to improve your corn yields that don’t involve doing a rain dance.
farmers, ways, improve, corn, yield
Tuesday, 05 September 2017 10:38 AM
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