Dear Georgia Corn Grower Blog readers: I apologize to you all for the lack of articles over the last several months. We all have the same 24 hour/7 days a week opportunity to get things done. As I get a little older, I’m not quite as efficient as I once was and these old bones tend to slow me down a little more than yesterday. I wanted to take a little time away from the blog in the winter after harvest but I fully expected to be back in the saddle much earlier than now. So, I apologize for the late start. Please accept my apologies.
The past two months have been filled with D.C. visits on your behalf, exhibits at short courses, zoom meetings, conferences and research forums. February weather was about 70 to 80 warmer than normal and slightly dryer which led to much warmer 2” soil temperatures. This meant that we headed into March with growers planting slightly earlier than normal. We hit a couple of snags with some night temperature dropping into the high 20’s and low 30’s in early to mid-March. This caused anywhere from mild to serious tissue damage depending on the planting date. Some losses resulted in the need to replant. Weather forecast for the next several weeks appear to have good planting conditions for planting the rest of Georgia’s corn crop.
What are some of the agronomic practices prior to or after planting that need to be considered? If you haven’t planted, and plan to make in-furrow applications of pesticides, biologicals, fertilizers, then make sure you know your mixture compatibility. Also, be aware of water pH as a potential effect on the efficacy of your choices. A high salt index on fertilizer can cause serious germination issues so avoid those in your mixtures. There are plenty of pre-emerge herbicide choices so know your potential interactions to make sure that it will not cause any harm to seed germination or emergence. IF you are using a 2X2 starter/popup fertilizer, try to get the liquid at a minimum of 3 inches deep. The preferred depth is 4” deep which is 2 inches below the seed and 2” to the side. This will avoid root injury to the plants. In the past, I have seen a lot of starter fertilizer placed only 3” deep which isn’t really deep enough.
I like banding fertilizer by the row in an effort to improve crop efficiency but high amounts of fertilizer need to be mixed with soil to reduce injury to seed or seedlings. Broadcasting over the top is efficient but frequently causes injury to the plant if it’s growth stage at V5 or more. Always review your soil test for information to determine the amount of fertilizer that is reasonable to meet the demand of your yield goal. Since the cost of fertilizer has risen 300%+ over the last several years, your return on your investment (ROI) has shrunk even with higher grain prices. (I will revisit this issue in the months ahead). Therefore, establishing a solid, even emerging stand is more important than ever. The less stress that you cause the better the yield potential will be for corn. Be timely with all your fertilizer applications throughout the year. I am a firm believer in keeping up with timed tissue analysis by growing degree units (GDU’s). Therefore, keep up with your GDU’s so as to match it with the plant signals such as time to emergence or a specific number of fully collared leaves. This way you can/will map success. I encourage everyone to conduct a flag test at planting (google it if you don’t know what it is). Then start your mapping. Success in corn rises when you keep good data each time you conduct a practice ( i.e. learning how to repeat success).
IF you have corn that is approaching V3-V4, then a timely application of weed control is warranted to protect the crop from yield loss due to weeds, plus being in the field helps you spot future troubles. Also, you can determine when to conduct your first whole plant tissue analysis to see how your early fertilizer is being utilized. A V-4 stage is a great place to start. IF you see a problem and are not sure how to correct it, then make sure to call a knowledgeable source such as your county extension agents, or consultants, retail agronomists or any other trusted source. Resolving problems early pays dividends down the road. More to come later.