7 STEPS TO COMPLETE BEFORE PLANTING
You can't control weather. Nor can you control markets. You can, however control time-tested agronomic techniques to bulge your bins and break through breakeven budgets. The technologies we have today make it easy for us not to implement common sense strategies because technology can do a lot for us. It is still better, though, to use a combination of agronomic skills and common sense.
We've compiled 7 tips from industry and extension crop specialists about how you can traverse today's rocky economic climate. Some of the ideas cost money, some cost time, and some don't cost either, but instead, are just common sense management steps that you can implement.
Spend Sufficient Time Selecting Seed - Many farmers don't spend enough time evaluating plot results. Why it pays: Data shows yields may differ by 40 to 50 bushels per acre between two hybrids in the same field with identical inputs applied. Data also shows environment can cause one soybean variety in the same field to out yield another by 15 to 20 bushels per acre.
Look Beyond the Test-Plot Pretty Boys - Everyone wants that silver bullet, that one hybrid that works every year. No such hybrid ever existed. Every hybrid has an Achilles heel or some kind of fault. Remember this when there's a test-plot pretty boy in your area that consistently tops yields year in and year out. Finding its weakness can help you better plan your seed strategy. Get your hands on as much independent and company data as you can. Gleaning gobs of data can reveal not only hybrid or variety strengths but also weaknesses.
Plant Rootworm-Traited Corn Only If You Need It - Many farmers know the damage that corn rootworm can wreak. Many though, haven't found rootworm at levels to justify planting rootworm-resistant corn. Planting conventional corn can save you money. Challenges exist with this strategy. Since the bulk of the industry has paired top-notch genetics with trait packages, concern exists about planting conventional corn with less-than-stellar genetics. Why it pays: Savings may be gleaned by planting corn hybrids minus a rootworm trait in low-risk rootworm areas.
Buy Rootworm-Traited Corn in Risky Corn Rootworm Regions - There's a flip side to all this, though. Corn rootworm can make a big swing in a year's time. It can quickly go from a low population to a high one. Be particularly aware of rootworm if you farm in an area plagued by extended diapause. That's when rootworm thwarts the corn-soybean rotation by its eggs skipping hatching in soybeans and instead, hatching in corn two years later. Why it pays: Without traits, we've documented yield losses of 60 to 80 bushels per acre.
Check Out a New Field's History - Soil testing on newly purchased ground or before renting land and including fertilizer costs in rental agreements can save you from a crop disaster.
Avoid Creating Fluffy Soil Syndrome - A summertime plane ride over your fields is a great way to detect what some soil experts call fluffy soil syndrome (FSS). The more tillage you do, the more tracks you leave in the field. A summertime aerial view of a field that's been excessively tilled will reveal dark green plants within the tracks. Unfortunately, that leaves paler plants over the rest of the field that's been tilled into a pulp. Dark green plants result within tracks do to good seed-to-soil and root-to-soil contact. Normally, that's good. Unfortunately, the eye-popping plants found in tracks aren't occurring in the rest of the excessively tilled field.
Apply Sulfur to Corn - Corn can't access as much atmospheric Sulfur as it could 50 years ago. Increases in no-till, early planting and heavy residue from high-yielding corn also create Sulfur deficiencies. Corn uses lots of Sulfur that isn't being put back in. Why it pays: Sulfur fertilizer sparked a mean yield increase of 38 bushels per acre on soils suspected for being Sulfur deficient in a 2006 ISU trial.