Despite the rain, corn is still king

By Brian Essinger, Monsanto Territory Manager, Northern Ohio

Don't give up on corn yet.

As I sit in my office overlooking the yard and the wheat field across the road, I hear that all too familiar sound of raindrops hitting my window. The calendar says May 17 and once again we are in wait mode. Now I am a positive guy and I learned a long time ago do not curse the weather. In fact, if you ask my kids they will tell you daddy says, “Never buck the rain.” But it takes every fiber in my being not to get down, anxious, and downright frustrated.

With that being said, I believe my job is to give you the facts, help you build a successful production plan, and above all be your optimistic point of view. So hear are some tips to think about, focus on, and overall stay positive.

Don’t give up on corn. It is still king. Summer weather will have the biggest impact on corn yields and drydown. On the surface it sounds like an obvious, almost elementary, statement. However, it simply underlines that, although planting timing has some impact on corn maturity, the fact of the matter is summer will determine 90% of the season. Most corn hybrids adjust their maturity (GDU’s) downward the later in the season they are planted. This is a primary reason I am not a big advocate of switching hybrids under 110 day maturity even into June since their maturing rate will decrease the later they are planted in the season. Remember, just because you planted late does not mean your corn will be wet and yields automatically be lower.

A wise farmer told me, when explaining why he stuck with fuller season hybrids, “As a farmer we know how to handle moisture, but we cannot make up for lost yields.”  Focus on feeding your final population (stand) for 90% to 100% yield potential, use the products/tools to keep the plants healthy in their environment, and scout your crop continually for anything that would rob you of yield. Focusing on these tasks will increase the likelihood for yield and enhance overall drydown.

Stay positive.The bonus to planting in late May/early June is when the crop went in the ground the soils were warm, their was ample moisture, and the plant was growing from day one. Early season bugs will have less of an impact as their primary food source was not available and many have been drowned out; and most importantly, we still have historic profit potential. Conservatively at 80% to 90% yields (150 bushels per acre) with cash corn at $6, the gross will be $900 per acre less an estimate of $50 drying and the net is around $850 an acre. Thi is a great reason to smile, look forward, and be positive!

The potential for soybeans is good, but we have to adjust on the fly. Think about maturity, populations and yield. Soybean yields are all about light and nodes. Light is what runs the plant, nodes are potential spots for pods, and pods are potential for soybeans. So the longer the growing season and more nodes you have, the more potential for yield. Plants have more light and produce more nodes of you plant lower populations in early spring.

Now that most of the soybeans will be planted in late May and early June, populations need to be increased to “manufacture” the number of nodes required for yield. Along with increased plant populations, stick to maturities mid to fuller season as the plant growth/maturity pattern will be shortened due to less light. This will cause early maturing soybeans to have less growth and produce fewer nodes. Focus on increasing soybean planting populations. Keep the maturity of your soybeans between a 3.0 and 3.8 and keep your leaf material (solar panels) healthy and intact with the use of fungicides, insecticides and foliar feeds where needed as every leaf and every plant will matter in 2011. With today’s varieties, just like in corn the profit potential in soybeans is at historic levels, which is plenty of incentive to stay positive. A very conservative 45 bushels per acre soybean yield at today’s fall cash price of $12.50 is over $560 gross per acre, not as much as corn, but still something to smile about!

Finally, I have the privilege of being the DeKalb and Asgrow Safety Lead in Ohio. It gives me the opportunity to focus, teach, and discuss ways being safe with you. Think about the first thing that passes through your mind as you head out in the morning? Whether you are going to the field, working in the shop, or taking the kids to school, it should always be returning home safely to your family. Always buckle up and take your time. We will all busy, rushed, and it will only be amplified when the weather is finally fit.

Also remember to turn it off, lock it out, and walk around. Sometimes, especially with a task we have done a million times before, we get complacent or find short cuts. Take the extra couple of seconds when working around equipment to turn it off, secure it, unplug it, lock it out, or walk around. Think of it this way, the only person watching out for you is you. Be vigilant and focus on the little things. These are usually what we take for granted and cause the most accidents on and off the job. Be safe. It will be the most important and most profitable thing you do this planting season.

From myself, my colleagues, and my family, take care and God bless.

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