Overcoming challenges for top-end yield potential

By Matt Hutcheson, CCA, Product Manager, Seed Consultants, Inc.

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

The 2024 growing season started off in a challenging way for eastern Corn Belt growers. Learning from these challenges and making sound management decisions throughout the remainder of the growing season will be critical to achieving top-end yield potential.

Although some growers were able to get crops planted early, wet weather caused delays in many areas. Field work was delayed due to patterns of wet weather and crops were not planted (or replanted) 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 top-end yield potential will be sound management decisions throughout the remainder of the growing season.

In addition to creating challenges early in the season, wet weather and saturated soils may cause some issues that 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.

Weather continues to create challenges for the 2024 crop as a pattern of hot and dry weather began in mid-June. With crops showing signs of stress and continued drought conditions, crop development will be impacted.

 In the coming months growers should continue to monitor fields and make sound decisions to ensure crops have the chance to achieve their best yield potential. With growing farm size and increasing distractions, it is easy to forgo scouting. Although it takes time, scouting fields is a critical piece to producing a successful crop.

 With the increasing presence of herbicide-resistant weeds, growers must be vigilant of weed development in their fields and employ herbicide programs that effectively control weeds and prevent the spread of weed seeds. With the plethora of herbicide and trait options, growers should work with their agronomist 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 producing crops with top-end yield potential. 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 quality. In areas where heavy rain and saturated soils exist late into the growing season, nitrogen deficiency may appear as a result of N losses. In some cases, nutrient deficiencies will need to be corrected to avoid yield loss.

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. 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 gone through several stresses during the spring of 2024, there is still potential for good yields. The key to maximizing crop production will be closely monitoring fields and making sound management decisions throughout the remainder of the growing season.

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