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Agronomy Notebook



Assessing frost injury in corn

By Mike Kavanaugh, AgriGold Agronomy Manager

 

As the first significant cold front of the 2012 growing season passes through, many

questions are arising concerning the fate of planted corn in the case of near or below freezing temperatures. With such a warm, early spring, many acres have been planted throughout the central and southern Corn Belt.

The key through the frost evaluation process is to understand the growth pattern of these small corn plants and give it at least a week for proper evaluation. Obviously, the bigger the corn is, the more susceptible it is to freeze injury. This is true because the depth of the growing point becomes shallower within the soil surface as the plant continues to grow. Keep in mind that the growing point or crown is located at approximately .75-inch below the soil surface, providing that planting depth itself was below 3/4 inch. The growing point does not actually reach the soil surface until the plant reaches the V5-V6 growth stage.

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Tips to maximize planting

By John Brien, AgriGold agronomist

Planting corn is a race against time — trying to cover all of the acres in a very narrow window. Because of the time crunch, planting is often seen as just another operation that needs to be completed quickly, when in all actuality, planting is the single most important operation to achieve a bumper corn crop. Planting is not just about putting seed into the ground, planting is about providing the proper conditions to achieve an even stand with a quick and uniform emergence. The key to planting success is the corn planter.

Why is so much emphasis put on the planter? Because once a corn seed is planted, there is very little to nothing that can be done to fix the errors of planting. Therefore, properly planting the crop the first time is essential. The following is a list of some last minute tips to help get the corn crop off to a great start.

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Get corn plants off to a good start

By Kirk Reese, Agronomy Research Manager, Pioneer Hi-Bred International

When considering corn planting for 2012, one certainty is that the growing season will be different than past growing seasons. However, there are some tactics, including planting at the proper depth, that will help overcome weather challenges in the crop.

Corn planting depth is easily measured shortly after emergence. Taking care to dig up as much of the plant as possible, the distance between the growing point, also known as the first node or crown, and the soil surface is usually three-quarters of an inch deep when planted at recommended planting depths. Measuring the mesocotyl, the area between the seed and the growing point, then adding three-quarters inch, will determine planting depth in the soil. Under ideal conditions, corn can emerge in a week to 10 days. Under more stressful conditions, such as wet soils or extended periods of temperatures below 50 degrees, corn may take up to three weeks to emerge.

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Anhydrous injury in corn

By John Brien, AgriGold agronomist

Each year, many corn growers that use spring applied, preplant ammonia find some degree of anhydrous ammonia injury within their corn fields. Severe injury can cause significant germination problems or root pruning, which leads to stand loss or uneven stands, which can ultimately lead to significant yield losses.  

As the spring of 2012 begins, much of the Corn Belt has found itself putting on a lot of ammonia and considering planting very soon. This means that the time between anhydrous ammonia applications and planting will most likely be very minimal in many cases. Injury from anhydrous ammonia can be easy to diagnose but somewhat difficult to prevent. Below are some precautions and preventative measures to take to avoid anhydrous injury in corn.

The first step in preventing anhydrous ammonia injury in corn is to understand how anhydrous moves in the soil. When anhydrous ammonia is applied to the soil, it can disperse approximately 3 to 4 inches away from the injection point. 

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Fighting winter annuals

By John Brien, CCA, AgriGold regional agronomist

 

The Eastern Corn Belt is experiencing one of the warmest winters on record. Temperatures have consistently been 5-10 degrees Fahrenheit above normal for most of the winter months, with some locations recording 60+ degree temperatures in the month of February. The warm weather throughout the winter could lead to a lot of unwanted situations in 2012. One of the unintended situations caused by warmer than normal temperatures is the potential for high infestations of winter annuals.

Winter annuals are unique in that they grow during the cool times of the year when other annual weeds become dormant. The life cycle of winter annuals begin anytime between late summer and early spring. The newly sprouted weeds overwinter as small seedlings and then when the weather begins to warm in the spring they continue to grow, flower, put on seeds and then die. Winter annuals typically grow close to the ground for protection against cold winter days.

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A last look at 2011 Ohio corn yields

By John Brien, CCA, AgriGold regional agronomist

Corn yields are the holy grail of corn production, high yields are worthy of bragging rights at the coffee shop and low yields are all the more reason not to leave the shop during the winter. All growers strive for the highest yields possible, but after anytime of farming a grower quickly realizes that we are not in total control of the entire yield equation.

2011 corn production proved to be quite an adventure no matter where you lived. The weather was challenging early to almost the entire state and caused major delays and challenges to planting. To some growers the weather continued to be challenging all year long, while to other growers the weather later in the growing season was extremely rewarding. The old adage of “rain makes grain” held true again in 2011. As the spring of 2012 quickly approaches, a final look at how the 2011 corn crop makes a nice bookend to a year no one will forget.

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Will Goss's Wilt be a challenge in 2012?

By John Brien, CCA, AgriGold Regional Agronomist

Goss’s Wilt is one of the most devastating and feared leaf diseases a corn grower can experience.

There have been several “reports” of finding Goss’s wilt in Ohio corn fields in 2011, but no confirmed cases to AgriGold’s knowledge. All the cases have been a case of misidentification. Even though there are no cases of Goss’ Wilt in Ohio, nor does AgriGold believe there will be for several years, some background information and how to identify the pathogen should help extinguish any false rumors and/or fears.

Goss’s Wilt was first observed in Nebraska more than 40 years ago. For much of that time, the disease seemed to be content in Nebraska but beginning in 2008 it began to march eastward into Iowa, Illinois and Indiana. Since that time Goss’s Wilt has continued to grow exponentially in the I-states, most notably Iowa and Illinois.

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Will Goss’s Wilt be a challenge in 2012?

By John Brien, CCA, AgriGold Regional Agronomist

Goss’s Wilt is one of the most devastating and feared leaf diseases a corn grower can experience.

There have been several “reports” of finding Goss’s wilt in Ohio corn fields in 2011, but no confirmed cases to AgriGold’s knowledge. All the cases have been a case of misidentification. Even though there are no cases of Goss’ Wilt in Ohio, nor does AgriGold believe there will be for several years, some background information and how to identify the pathogen should help extinguish any false rumors and/or fears.

Goss’s Wilt was first observed in Nebraska more than 40 years ago. For much of that time, the disease seemed to be content in Nebraska but beginning in 2008 it began to march eastward into Iowa, Illinois and Indiana. Since that time Goss’s Wilt has continued to grow exponentially in the I-states, most notably Iowa and Illinois.

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Boosting the solar power of corn

By Dave Nanda, Seed Consultants, Inc.

These days we hear a lot about reducing the use of fossil fuels and producing more clean energy by solar panels or wind machines. However, I don’t know of a better system than the corn plant that not only captures sunlight efficiently and simultaneously reduces carbon dioxide and gives us oxygen so we can breathe. A very small percentage of the solar energy is captured by the plants; most of it is either wasted on the ground or is reflected back. So what can we do to make a more efficient use of this free energy?

Our corn breeders have been collecting germplasm from all over the world and developing superior hybrids for a long time. We have designed hybrids with upright leaves, which can capture more sunlight and also allow the lower leaves to receive and trap greater amounts of light. These hybrids may also be planted at higher populations.

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Zinc's role in corn production

By John Brien, CCA, AgriGold regional agronomist

Zinc is a micronutrient, meaning it is needed in very small amounts by the corn plant. Actually the amount is measured in ounces per acre instead of the normal pounds per acre of other major nutrients such as nitrogen and potassium. A 150-bushel corn crop is known to remove only 0.25 pounds of zinc. Even though zinc is needed in small amounts, it has a huge impact on how a corn plant grows and ultimately how much yield is produced. In a study performed by the University of Nebraska on a low zinc testing soil showed a 53-bushel increase in yield by adding one pound of zinc to a starter.

Zinc plays a critical role in the following systems of a corn plant:

• Aids in the synthesis (production) of growth hormones and proteins.

• It is needed in the production of chlorophyll and carbohydrate metabolism.

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Zinc’s role in corn production

By John Brien, CCA, AgriGold regional agronomist

Zinc is a micronutrient, meaning it is needed in very small amounts by the corn plant. Actually the amount is measured in ounces per acre instead of the normal pounds per acre of other major nutrients such as nitrogen and potassium. A 150-bushel corn crop is known to remove only 0.25 pounds of zinc. Even though zinc is needed in small amounts, it has a huge impact on how a corn plant grows and ultimately how much yield is produced. In a study performed by the University of Nebraska on a low zinc testing soil showed a 53-bushel increase in yield by adding one pound of zinc to a starter.

Zinc plays a critical role in the following systems of a corn plant:

• Aids in the synthesis (production) of growth hormones and proteins.

• It is needed in the production of chlorophyll and carbohydrate metabolism.

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Tips for contending with emergence issues this spring

As spring emerges, so can emergence issues if growers don’t focus on mitigating the stresses of early planting and high residue, according to experts from Pioneer Hi-Bred, a DuPont business. 


Early planting can be appealing to growers with many acres to plant who want to get ahead of spring rains like those in 2011. In addition, early planting can provide potential benefits, such as more time for crop development and the potential to help reduce the effects of mid-summer droughts in some years.

“Predicting the best time to plant can be tricky, as each growing season provides unique environmental challenges,” said Imad Saab, Pioneer research scientist in crop genetics, research and development. “Emergence can be delayed or reduced if planting conditions are less than ideal, and this commonly leads to yield loss for the grower.” 


To maximize emergence, Saab recommends growers avoid planting until soil temperatures are 50 degrees or more, and preferably with a near-term warming trend.

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Should you use starter fertilizer?

By Dave Nanda, Director of Genetics and Technology for
Seed Consultants, Inc.

Why is starter fertilizer becoming more important than in the past? When we plant early, the growing conditions for germination and early growth of the seedlings are very harsh. The soils are cold and wet and anything we can do to help the little seedlings will give them a head start. In addition, planting in no-till or reduced tillage ground is becoming more prevalent. For applying starter fertilizer, you may have to modify your planter. It is important to have the nutrients, especially, nitrogen available immediately after germination to the young seedlings where little roots are developing. What are benefits of starter fertilizer?

• I have seen better stand establishment where starter was used as compared to the check rows.

• Corn is more robust and healthier. The canopy formation is slightly faster and corn seedlings are ahead of the early weeds.

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South American seed production offers challenges, benefits

By Steve Woodall, production, Production Contract Administrator, AgReliant Genetics

Producing seed corn in South America for U.S. corn growers offers some unique benefits and challenges. AgReliant produces seed in Argentina and Chile for several reasons. Genetics and traits in the seed industry are moving ahead faster now than they ever have. Having a second production cycle each year offers the opportunity to provide our customers with a better supply of the newest products and also gives the chance to increase supply of our best products. Parent seed is also produced in South America in order to bring new products up to commercial production levels faster.

A common practice for winter production is for parent seed produced in the U.S. to be harvested, conditioned, quality tested, shipped to South America and planted in a matter of a few weeks. The parent seed traveling to South America is flown down on commercial passenger flights and regular air freight lines.

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White mold poses significant threat to soybean and dry bean yields

Soybean and dry bean growers across the Midwest and North Central United States need to prioritize white mold when evaluating their ‘disease watch list’ for 2012.

White mold, also known as Sclerotinia stem rot, was first discovered in the United States in the late 1800s on tomatoes. Since then, the pathogen has been found on hundreds of other crops and by 1992 it had established itself as a wide-spread problem in geographies where climate provided optimum condition for disease proliferation.

When left untreated, white mold can cause yield loss or total crop loss depending on the infected crop, with the added challenge of lingering in the soil for up to 10 years.

The reason behind the rapid increase of white mold has yet to be determined, but it is thought to be related to changes in cultural practices that promote a greater canopy density. The increase in white mold also is believed to be influenced by changes in the genetic base of current soybean and dry bean varieties, or changes in the white mold pathogen.

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Why early planting usually pays

By Dave Nanda, 
Director of Genetics & Technology 
Seed Consultants, Inc.

It has been proven by many tests conducted by the universities and seed companies over the years that earlier planted corn typically yields more than the later plantings. It has been demonstrated that in the central Corn Belt, you can lose about one bushel per acre per day if you plant corn after May 10th. However, they seldom explain why. The reasons are as follows:

North of the equator, June 21st is the longest day of the year. Plants can trap most sun light during May 21st to July 20th period. Earlier planted corn has more time to capture solar radiation. That’s the main reason for higher yield potential.

Is heat more important than light for yield and maturity? You can’t grow crops without either heat or light. Fortunately, both come from the sun. Heat provides the energy and light is required for photosynthesis, a process that converts carbon dioxide into organic compounds, especially sugars, starches and proteins.

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Research confirms benefits of crop rotation

 

Recent research add strength to the long held belief that corn grown in rotation with soybeans requires less nitrogen fertilizer and produces better yields than continuous corn.

“Our research shows that corn residue acts like a ‘sponge’ immobilizing the fertilizer, making it temporarily unavailable to the corn plant,” said John Shanahan, Pioneer agronomy research manager. “Growers working with continuous corn need to be mindful of crop residue from the previous year and adjust (and likely increase) their nitrogen fertilizer rates accordingly.”

These findings are part of a long-term, multi-location study by Pioneer that began in 2006 to examine the response of corn in limited nitrogen environments. Evaluations have been conducted yearly at Pioneer research stations in Johnston, Iowa; Champaign, Ill.; Windfall, Ind.; and York, Neb.

“While many studies have tested corn response to nitrogen fertilizer, there has been limited information on corn hybrid performance in nitrogen-deficient environments,” Shanahan says.

The nitrogen treatments in the study were standardized to five rates as a percentage of university economic optimum recommendations (from 0 to 130%), applied to corn in continuous production as well as corn in rotation with soybeans, and positioned on the same plots from year to year.

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