Ten practices for increasing corn yields and profits

By Harold Watters, CCA, Ohio State University Extension agronomist

The cropping season (a.k.a. late winter) is dragging along a bit slowly. Typically our best crops are planted between April 20 and May 10 — but we usually start a little earlier than the May 20. This year that won’t happen for many of us. What I do know is that the sun will get higher and higher in latitude and will change the weather pattern we are in. We will have a growing season, and we will get planted. I like to look over my corn reminders this time of year just to keep things in perspective and want to share them again. These are from Peter Thomison, our now retired OSU Extension corn specialist.

  • Know the yield potential of your fields, their yield history, and the soil type and its productivity.
  • Choose high yielding, adapted hybrids. Pick hybrids that have produced consistently high yields across a number of locations or years. Select hybrids with high ratings for foliar and stalk rot diseases when planting no-till or with reduced tillage, especially after corn. Select high yielding Bt rootworm resistant hybrids where is potential for the western corn rootworm damage.
  • Follow pest management practices that will provide effective, timely pest control — especially weed control.
  • Aim to complete planting by May 10. If soil conditions are dry, begin planting before the optimum date but avoid early planting or poorly drained soils. If planting late (after May 25 in central Ohio) plant corn borer resistant Bt hybrids.
  • Follow practices that will enhance stand establishment. Adjust seeding depth according to soil conditions and monitor planting depth periodically during the planting operation and adjust for varying soil conditions. Make sure the planter is in good working order. Inspect and adjust the planter to improve stand establishment. Operate planters at speeds that will optimize seed placement. Uneven emergence affects crop performance because late emerging plants cannot compete with larger, early emerging plants.
  • Adjust seeding rates on a field-by-field basis. On productive soils, which average 175 bushels per acre or more, final stands of 32,000 plants per acre or more may be required to maximize yields.
  • Supply the most economical rate of nitrogen. Use an application method that will minimize the potential loss of N (incorporation/injection, consider stabilizers under high risk applications, etc.). See below for more remarks on this.
  • Utilize soil testing to adjust pH and guide P and K fertilization. Avoid unnecessary P and K applications. High soil tests do not require additional inputs.
  • Perform tillage operations only when necessary and under proper soil conditions. Deep tillage should only be performed when a compacted zone is detected and soil conditions are dry (usually late summer).
  • Take advantage of crop rotation — corn grown after soybeans will typically yield 10% to 15% more than corn grown after corn.

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