The growing season of 2015 has turned out to be a roller coaster ride of moisture stress (both too much and too little), disease pressure, and curiosity in the mind of the grower as to what’s really out there in terms of yield.
We started 2015 with an abundance of rainfall across the state from north to south, causing late planting dates in some areas and prevented planting claims in others. Depending on which field you are standing in, yield potential seems to range from very good to very poor. Near record yields appear to be anticipated in parts of the southern Ohio area, as well as pockets of central Ohio, whereas dismal yields from drowned areas and flooding appear as you look north.
As corn plants neared reproductive stages, northern corn leaf blight and gray leaf spot could be found in most of the state. Growers that applied fungicides to help prevent infection are now happy that they had done so. NCLB infection has continued to increase in severity throughout the growing season. A cooler than usual August allowed for high spore reproduction, and the disease continues to infect leaf tissue.
A majority of soybeans experienced flooding or soil water saturation prior to when reproductive stages began around the summer solstice (sometime around June 21). This has caused virtually all the ugly soybean diseases to show their face throughout the growing season. Diseases ranging from Phytophthora root rot to brown stem rot to sudden death syndrome have been observed this season, and, depending where you are in the state, some of them at a high level of severity.
With all this, growers are asking themselves, “What kind of yield potential is out there?” The simple answer is that it depends on the county and the field. This year I think we will see the top range, the bottom range, and everything in between.
For corn, using the yield estimator at pioneer.com should give you a good approximation. For soybeans, I find it much harder to calculate yield because seed size is so variable. Also, the plant’s diverse ability to compensate for missing plants often leaves you looking for what an “average” plant looks like. In general, for soybeans I think yield will be sporadic this year. Earlier varieties benefited from rains in July and early August, whereas later maturities may have been hurt from a dry second half of August.
As we near and begin harvest we look for more disease to show up. In soybeans look for sudden death syndrome to appear more, especially with the wet spring we experienced. This disease infects early in plant life and shows symptomology later in the reproductive stages. In corn, ear molds and stalk integrity will be on the forefront of our minds. Ear molds such as diplodia, Gibberella, Trichoderma and more may be seen as we near harvest.
Stalk integrity is in question on weaker stalked hybrids. June rains pushed a high amount of available nitrogen out of the root zone, causing N deficiency in many fields across the state. Any field that experienced N loss should be monitored for stalk integrity as harvest begins and progresses. The plant will mobilize N from the stalk to make the final push to fill the kernels. As this happens, plants that experienced N deficiency will experience weakened stalks. Scout your fields as harvest begins to monitor for ones that may need to be harvested before others. Also, contact your seed salesman and inquire as to which hybrids you have that may be at higher risk than others.
As we go into 2016, crop management will continue to be crucial. In future growing seasons, make sure you are managing your nitrogen and managing disease to maximize yields. For soybeans, continue to manage disease with fungicides as well as adding new seed treatments to aid with SDS and SCN. When asked, growers and researchers alike generally state that environment and genetics are the top two contributors to yield.