Corn Is King Again

With yet another year closing and virtually no impact experienced due to Asian soybean rust, it would seem that a major invasion during any given year would amount to the exception rather than the rule. Seemed like a great time to be in agronomy services, but Mother Nature gives, and she takes away with no prejudice.

There does, however, seem to be a pot of gold at the end of at least one agronomic rainbow: the care of corn.

As we reported extensively in the November issue, the momentum won’t likely slow anytime soon in the rush to build ethanol processing facilities for corn. The subsequent demand increase for corn is boosting corn acreage as a share of existing farm land, and even has USDA talking about opening up conservation acreage for production.

Good news? You bet. With the increasing versatility and durability built in to today’s corn varieties, growers need to be able to sort through the myriad traits and treatment programs before planting, as well as a wide range of critical in-season decisions that must be made. A good time not only for agronomy but seed selling as well.

Now would seem like a particularly good time to engage growers confidently with a plan to help them manage yield risk in corn. A significant factor in developing this plan is managing weeds.

I’ve been editorially immersed in some of the weed management issues that Extension specialists, agronomists, and manufacturers have been working on in especially problematic weeds. Weeds that challenged the widely used ALS inhibitors in the late 1990s — in particular, lambsquarters, waterhemp, and ragweed in the Midwest — are developing into formidable opponents to the “traditional” glyphosate-tolerant program.

In some cases, there’s out-and-out confirmed resistance. Marestail has gotten the most attention, having been confirmed resistant to glyphosate in 14 states, including Nebraska last month. Reports of suspected or confirmed glyphosate resistance in giant ragweed, as well as common waterhemp, have also been reported in some Midwest counties.

The number of options in weed control products in corn vs. soybeans creates more potential management solutions to present to customers with corn acreage, but having a thoughtful management plan is crucial. Study after study has shown that early season weed competition is a yield killer in corn, so planning to start with a clean field is critical.

Also, understanding the intricacies, benefits, and limitations of corn on corn, as well as glyphosate tolerant on glyphosate tolerant, crop rotations is important for the full service retailer to share with growers.

Lastly, corn is the latest and potentially the biggest benefit in the use of fungicides. Some studies showed as much as a 10-bushel yield bump when a well-timed application of a fungicide is used on corn, and seems to be more predictable and reliable than use on soybeans in early testing. More information will be coming out on this in the future.

Corn has always been a critical crop to Midwest retailers, and current market conditions seem to be increasing its prominence even further. Doing everything you can to ensure you have all the answers for your growers’ corn acreage will help ensure a more profitable 2007 for you and your customers.

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