By Greg Stewart OMAF
June 25, 2014, Ontario – Greg Stewart offers best practices for the 2014 corn crop.
1. Strategic N management can pay
If you apply all your nitrogen (N) pre-plant it is difficult to maximize return on your dollar invested in N. Split applications are often more profitable. However, the profit boost is not just from splitting. It really comes when the second application is adjusted for soil N supply. If you put 100 pounds down up front and side dress 40, that can improve returns somewhat. But if you put 100 lbs down up front and then use the weather and soil nitrate tests to decide whether this is the year you should sidedress zero, 40 or 80 pounds, then the potential to improve returns jumps considerably.
2. Streamer nozzle application of UAN has risks after 4-leaf corn
Producers can apply UAN (28 per cent) using streamer nozzles over the crop canopy up to the four-leaf stage with a little leaf burn but no yield loss. At later stages, the research suggest that crop injury or less available N lowers yields compared to UAN applied directly to the soil.
3. Watch N losses from surface application
When UAN or urea is applied to a wet soil surface, the chances of losing N to volatilization goes up considerably compared to dry conditions. Crop residue will also add to the risk.
4. Emphasize uniform development
Don’t ignore all the factors that can contribute to a uniform, high yielding stand. Fertilizer application, tillage uniformity, even distribution of crop residues, compaction, depth of secondary tillage, planting depth and seed trench conditions are all important to a uniform crop stand. You can have perfect spacing and not have a uniform, high yielding corn crop. Look for poor corn plants (two or more leaf stages behind, smaller stem diameter, small ear, etc.). Investigate what might have caused this poor performance. Shallow planting, side wall compaction or poor root development should be first things to look for.
5. Experimenting with spring strip tillage
Can we make strip tillage the winner in both profits and soil protection?
We will focus on:
1. spring strip tillage
2. incorporating all of our fertilizer in that zone while we go - so planting follows 6 hours later with no need for coulters, trash whippers, fertilizer, etc. and,
3. using RTK GPS and run it on the contour so no blowing out row zones if we get a big rain.
Keep an eye out for equipment and plots in 2014.