2023 growing seasons: Challenging start

By Matt Hutcheson, CCA, Soybean Lead/Field Agronomist, Seed Consultants, Inc

The 2023 growing season started off in a challenging way for many growers. Learning from these challenges and making sound management decisions throughout the remainder of the growing season will be important to achieving the highest possible yield potential.

Although some growers were able to get crops planted early, wet weather caused delays for growers in many areas. Field work was delayed due to patterns of wet weather. In many areas of Ohio, corn and soybeans were not planted until the end of May. While early planting favors high yields, it does not guarantee them. Even with delayed planting growers can still achieve high yields depending on several other factors. The key to achieving the crop’s highest yield potential will be sound management.

Not only have adverse spring field conditions impacted planting and early crop development, but some issues that exist as a result of the wet weather will linger throughout the season. Seedlings have struggled to get established in crusted soils, saturated soils, and flooded areas of fields. Compaction, root restriction, and damage to plants will hinder crop development throughout the growing season. Agronomists and growers who have walked fields this spring while taking stand counts have also observed compaction due to saturated soils and field work during wet soil conditions. The lingering impacts of this compaction will last for several years, ultimately hindering plant development and reducing yields.

In addition to early wet weather, due to a lack of rainfall in late May and early June, more than half of the state of Ohio was under moderate drought conditions by mid-June. Although a change in weather patterns brought some rain in the second week of June, as of June 13 a significant area of the state was still classified under moderate drought conditions.

With growing farm size and increasing distractions, it is easy to forgo scouting. Although it is time consuming, scouting fields moving forward is a critical piece to producing a successful crop.

 With the increasing presence of weeds such as waterhemp, growers must be vigilant of weed development in their fields and employ herbicide programs that effectively control weeds while eliminating the production and spread of weed seeds. With the plethora of herbicide and trait options, growers should work with agronomists to ensure effective weed control as well as crop safety. As always, following the label is a must.

 Scouting fields and observing crop development with the ability to make rescue treatments will be key to achieving the highest yield potential possible. With the existing compaction and root restrictions as a result of saturated soils this spring, growers should be on the lookout for nutrient deficiencies. With poor root development, crops can show signs of nutrient deficiencies, even where soil fertility is adequate. In the last several years, agronomists have seen an increase in sulfur deficiency as fields are not receiving as much sulfur from the environment due to improvements in air pollution.

Growers should also be on the lookout for diseases. The inoculum for many diseases is always present in crop residue, however, these diseases only become a problem under the right environmental conditions. Many yield-limiting diseases such as northern corn leaf blight, gray leaf spot, and frogeye leaf spot can be controlled if identified and treated in a timely manner. Additionally, growers should scout for tar spot as it continues to impact more of Ohio each year. Some disease symptoms such as sudden death syndrome can be a sign that other issues (compaction) exist. Disease presence can also help growers make future decisions on crop rotation, tillage, or varietal selection.

Although Ohio’s crops have already experienced stress during the spring of 2023, there is still potential for good yields. The key to achieving these top yields will be closely monitoring fields and making sound management decisions throughout the remainder of the growing season.

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