Season with twists, turns delivers good yields

Corn Watch: Slideshow illustrates how good weather at the right time helped this corn crop overcome lots of hot days.

When rain poured and soils were saturated in mid-April, it didn’t feel like a year that would deliver good corn yields. But that was only the beginning of what would turn out to be a topsy-turvy season. For some, it would have a silver lining: good yields. Others wouldn’t be as fortunate, harvesting average yields at low prices.

The Corn Watch ’18 field experienced some conditions that didn’t seem like they should belong in a recipe for high yield. But genetics and good production practices helped overcome challenges. Mother Nature’s timing of better weather stretches also helped this field, Dave Nanda says.

Nanda is a former plant breeder and now a crop consultant based in Indianapolis. He made observations regularly in the Corn Watch ’18 field, in the heart of the eastern Corn Belt. Corn Watch ’18 is sponsored by Seed Genetics-Direct, Washington Court House, Ohio.

Early season
The rains stopped and soils dried. The field was planted April 28. The operator planted two hybrids in a pattern resulting in 24-row strips across the field. One hybrid was flex-ear; the other was fixed-ear. Planting rate varied, depending upon soil type. It averaged 30,000 to 32,000 plants per acre. Soil types were primarily silt loams with level to gently rolling topography and ranged from well-drained to poorly drained. There is tile, but it’s not a pattern-tile drainage system.

“Corn popped up and took off quickly,” Nanda says. “Stand establishment was very good.”

Then Mother Nature delivered an obstacle: hail and wind. Leaves were tattered and some stalks were damaged. While the storm may have caused loss of a few plants, the field recovered reasonably well, Nanda says.

There were also signs of anhydrous ammonia injury on scattered plants. The farmer had applied nitrogen a reasonable amount of time before planting. However, he observed more injury this year than normal. He also saw injury in other fields. Most plants in this field grew out of it. Final stand wound up averaging around 30,000 plants per acre in preharvest checks.

“Record warm May weather resulted in the fastest corn growth I’ve seen,” Nanda observes. “It helped corn grow out of early issues, and it appeared to have good yield potential at that point.”

Rest of year
Corn in the field pollinated the last week of June, one hybrid two to three days before the other. Spreading risk is one reason the farmer plants two hybrids. There were some 90-degree-F days during pollination and the early part of grain fill. By the end of the season, Indianapolis had recorded more than double the normal number of days reaching 90 degrees or higher.

“Timing was critical,” Nanda says. “The last half of July featured cooler weather, with more average temperatures. Overall, conditions were good for pollination and grain fill.”

Knowing through scouting that diseases were present, the grower applied fungicides. Nanda observed both gray leaf spot and northern corn leaf blight, an unusual twosome, with gray leaf spot dominating. The ear leaf and above remained in decent shape until near harvest.

Roll this season all together and what do you get? The Corn Watch ’18 field averaged 233 bushels per acre, corrected to 15.5% moisture. “The field lived up to its potential, despite challenges,” Nanda says.

There was more difference between the two hybrids than expected. The fixed-ear hybrid averaged around 247 bushels per acre, and the flex-ear hybrid came in at 219 bushels per acre.

Click through the slideshow to see photos of the Corn Watch ’18 field throughout the season.

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