Causes of corn yield variation in 2011

By Dave Nanda, Seed Consultants, Inc.

Why was there such a wide variation in yields this year? There are several reasons for this:

• Rainfall was one of the main reasons for yield variations.

• Temperatures — cooler areas in the northern Corn Belt had higher yields than south. There isn’t much we can do about changing the weather but pray!

• Soil type — The darker soils with high organic matter with a greater water retention capacity gave higher yields. It was more important during this year with a very hot and dry summer.

• Drainage played an important role in planting as better drained soils dried sooner and allowed planting earlier compared to poorly drained soils. Many farmers are tiling their fields.

• Planting date — the fields which were planted earlier yielded more than later plantings. Most farmers who planted earlier could plant between 11th and 15th of May. If they could not plant during that window, they had to wait until 3rd of June before starting to plant again. Most farmers have realized the importance of early planting for a long time and felt very frustrated that they could not get in the fields. We should not lose a single day at planting time.

• Diseases like Northern Corn Leaf Blight and Gray Leaf Spot had an early start. Many of us expected that with the extremely hot summer, the diseases would explode, but south of highway I-70, there was no major spread of these pathogens because it did not rain and it was too dry. If it is too dry for the plants, it is too dry for diseases also. North of I-70 where it rained, the yields were higher but we also saw a lot of diseases. Ask your Seedman to provide you with seeds of disease tolerant varieties.

All of the factors discussed above contributed to the variations in yield even on the same farm. Control the factors you can and improve your yields.

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