Managing your crop’s yield potential 

By Mitch Greve, Agrigold agronomist – Ohio

Managing your crop’s yield potential starts with having patience and a detail-oriented plan heading into planting. Furthermore, as the planting season comes to an end it is essential to spend time in the field with the crop. Scouting corn and soybeans from emergence to harvest can help manage the crop’s yield potential. Monitoring weather patterns and a keen eye can help write your yield story. 

A yield story can be broken down into four chapters; emergence scoring, nutrient deficiencies, disease and heat stress, and late season plant health. 

Emergence score and plant vigor 

Within the first few weeks of planting corn and soybeans it is ideal to scout for emergence and plant vigor. Early season scouting will inform how many plants emerged as compared to intended stand, which we refer to as emergence percentage. Having a high emergence percentage is the best-case scenario, but sometimes weather, and biological or mechanical implications can lower that percentage. However, knowing what your emergence percentage is can help drive how you manage that crop throughout the remainder of the growing season. For example, if only 75% emergence occurred, and it is a low disease pressure year, than a R1 corn fungicide pass may not be economical. Counterintuitively, if 95% of our plants emerged and are healthy, there may be more bushels on the table by extending the grain-fill period with a late season fungicide pass. 

Nutrient deficiencies

The second major scenario to begin scouting for after emergence scoring is nutrient deficiencies. When corn and soybeans begin actively taking up nutrients and water, it is prime time to be on the lookout for nutrient deficiencies that may limit yield if not addressed. On top of visually scouting for these deficiencies, collecting tissue samples throughout the growing season can really tell the story of which nutrients are limiting top end yield. However, the surest way to prevent nutrient deficiencies is to routinely soil sample and apply fertilizer where needed based upon soil test results. Combining visual scouting, a robust tissue sampling program, and soil sample results will surely reduce the odds of experiencing nutrient deficiencies. 

Disease and heat stress

As the crop enters “the dog days of summer” where heat and limited rainfall can really stress both corn and soybeans, it is imperative to once again be active in the field looking for a status report. This is also the time of year when agronomists receive phone calls from farmers asking if they should spray fungicide on their crops or not. Typically, an agronomist can provide insight to disease presence or stressors near you that can help you make an informed decision. However, these decisions can be made easier if stand assessments and mid-season nutrient scouting took place to know the crops potential leading up to this point. 

Late season plant health

The last leg of the race is scouting for late-season plant health. This is important to help prioritize acres that need to be harvest first based upon deteriorating health and standability. Additionally, visualizing how a corn hybrid or soybean variety finished in a particular field can help determine where certain genetics belong on your farm. I always like to remind growers to not to give up monitoring their crops, especially corn, because the lessons learned from one year can help manage a future crop.  

All in all, a yield story is a continuum of learning from year to year and implementing new strategies the following year to reduce the likelihood of seeing the same issues that limited your yield potential the previous year. I wish the readers a safe and successful growing season this summer. 

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