Corn growers across the country are looking for ways to increase yield potential, especially given recent strong, yet volatile, commodity prices.
There are many theories on high-yield corn production best practices, but what really leads to success?
Combining BASF research and what he’s learned from high-production corn growers, BASF Technical Service Representative A.J. Woodyard recommends a total management approach, as a combination of the practices below are key to growing high-yield corn.
1. Develop A Season-Long Plan
Developing a cohesive plan is a crucial first step to ensure success.
“Growers interested in high-yield corn production should put together a season-long road map for their acres,” Woodyard said. “Early in the season, growers should set aside time to develop a full-season plan on how they’re going to get the most out of every acre.”
Woodyard notes the best time for planning is when seeds are purchased, as many decisions depend on hybrid selection. Hybrids respond differently to management practices. Fertility, nitrogen, plant populations and fungicide must be tailored to each field and hybrid to successfully implement a high-yield program.
2. Hybrid Seed Selection And Planting Population
Choosing a hybrid seed designed for high-yield potential is an important decision for corn growers planning ahead for the season. Growers should select hybrids that come pre-packaged with traits that target specific issues for their soil and geography, which can threaten corn yields.
Population is another part of the planting decision that affects corn yields. The optimum plant population for a given field allows the crops to maximize the uptake of water, nutrients, sunlight and the length of the growing season.
“High-yield corn growers recognize the need to manage increased plant populations for higher yields,” Woodyard said. “Populations of 35,000 to 38,000 plants per acre are becoming more common in high-yield environments, and the number will likely continue to increase as we see more innovation in hybrids and management practices.”
3. Fertility Program
Increased fertility is also important for corn growers pushing higher yield potential. Corn yields benefit from a robust fertility program, including starter fertilizer, optimization of macronutrients like phosphorus and potassium and split applications of nitrogen to provide a balanced season long nutrient package.
4. Weed Control
In corn, weeds allowed to reach four or six inches in height can reduce yield potential by 3% and 7%, respectively.
“If you miss weeds early, they get bigger and tougher to control, potentially requiring multiple applications and/or higher use rates for effective control,” Woodyard said. “As the season progresses, weed competition costs farmers more money and diminishes yield potential.”
To effectively manage weeds, especially tough-to-control weeds that are glyphosate resistant, Woodyard recommends utilizing a comprehensive weed management program that incorporates a variety of proactive chemical, cultural and mechanical strategies.
“A preemergence application of Verdict™ herbicide, powered by Kixor herbicide technology, provides growers with a good foundation of residual weed control at the start of the season,” Woodyard said. “To incorporate an additional site of action, growers should follow up with a good post-emergence, glyphosate tank-mix partner like Armezon herbicide or Status herbicide.”
5. Sequential Fungicide Applications
Fungicide applications are a key component of high-yield, total management programs in corn. Corn growers intensively managing their acres for yield and risk mitigation, Woodyard said, should consider a sequential fungicide application program this season.
An application of Headline fungicide during the V5 to V8 timing followed by Headline AMP fungicide at VT to R3 provides corn disease protection and Plant Health benefits throughout several critical stages of corn production, ultimately helping to maximize yield.
Though disease pressure is typically minimal during the early application window, the preventative control of Headline inhibits movement of troublesome corn diseases that thrive in residue and move up the corn canopy. By following-up with a Headline AMP application after tassel, growers are providing their crop with another level of disease protection to help maximize yields.
Headline AMP contains the equivalent of a full rate of the active ingredient found in Headline fungicide and a unique, best-in-class triazole for added protection and a second mode of action.
“We see the greatest level of disease control and yield response with a Headline AMP application in the tassel to early blister stage,” Woodyard said. “If you do one application, it should be Headline AMP at tassel, but a sequential program provides disease protection throughout the growing season.”
Maximize Corn Yield Potential
Though most high-yield corn production strategies are effective as standalone practices, the combination of these practices – as part of a season-long plan – is key to maximizing yield potential.
“We encourage growers to implement as many of these strategies on their operation as possible,” Woodyard said. “By developing a full-season plan, selecting the right hybrids and controlling weeds and diseases, growers can maximize their crops and continue to push yield and profit potential.”