This is one of those same-time-every-year kind of articles—one of those that I seem to write year in and year out, I guess because the topic is so important or something…
It’s early August. You’ve been at this crop for a while now. And it’s been a challenging year. You might be feeling a little done. But you are not done.
I will repeat: You are not done.
Sorry, friends. There are still decisions to be made. Important decisions. There are bushels out there yet that you can take or leave according to the decisions you’re being called to make right now. I’m going to encourage you to take them, because they matter—these are the ones that often turn a year from red to black.
The number of ears on your plants? Set. The number of kernels? Set. Test weight?
Not set. Yet.
Today’s decisions are the ones that determine whether your corn is heavy or light.
Physiologically, two-thirds of dry matter accumulation in an ear (test weight) occurs after dent. There’s about three to three and a half weeks between dent and the end of a corn plant’s life. In that short time, two-thirds of your final yield potential occurs. You cannot overstate the significance of this period of the season and the importance of your engagement and careful decision making.
So what decisions are left to be made? I’m glad you asked.
Go stand at the edge of one of your fields for a second and find that line where the ears are set. Below this line are the stalks, which are full of nutrients that can be driven up into the ears, driving up your test weight. Above this line are the leaves, the photosynthetic engine that drives a corn plant’s ability to reallocate nutrients from the stalk into the ears. You need that engine humming to make heavy corn. Your decisions now should aim to support that engine running at full capacity.
Yield is, after all, a sum of nitrogen, water, and sunlight.
Meaning that you want to ensure that your plants are capturing the maximum amount of sunlight. Meaning that you want to ensure that your plants’ leaves are intact and healthy. Meaning that you want to check for and treat any pressures that would cause defoliation, like insects and disease.
There are, unfortunately, some fairly aggressive diseases in our neighborhood right now, that left unchecked, will damage your yield potential. So scout, scout, and scout some more, pretty much up until the moment you climb into the cab of your combine. Look for signs of disease and damage, and if you see them, decide to treat them. The R-7 tool discussed a few articles back will help you as you make decisions, as will your friendly FSA.
And take a deep breath, friends. You’re almost done.
But not yet.