Southern Spotlight: Playing Your Hand

James Banahan

James Banahan

So.  We have not had a significant rainfall event for over 30 days in most areas.  While this isn’t totally surprising—this is Kansas after all, in July—there’s a lot of corn out there not looking so great.

The difference between the corn that’s not looking so great and the corn that’s looking a bit better is how it was managed in the lead up to this hot and dry July.  Dry years are unforgiving of even the smallest mismanagement or miscalculation, even those that didn’t seem like mismanagements or miscalculations at the time.  For example, quite a few growers around this neck of the woods tilled before planting to improve their seedbed.  Not a bad decision at all, but tilled ground gives up moisture quicker than untilled, and with our lack of rain lately, those tilled beds have been the first to burn.

Much of what we’re seeing now is the results of actions we took in March, April, and May.  That’s true every season, of course: the seed you plant in April becomes the plant you see in July.  However, our dry month rather exaggerates the results of our actions, making good practices look really good, and not-so-sound practices look worse than we thought.  If you put down a pre-emerge, used a good fertility program, and did the correct pre-planning for maturity, then you’re probably looking at your corn today with a bit of hope in your eyes.  If, on the other hand, you ventured out during planting wondering if maybe it was too wet to be playing in the fields, then you may very well be seeing the awful effects of sidewall compaction on your crop right now.

The situation isn’t quite as bad as it may seem though.  Pollination is over, and it actually went quite well.   Have the heat and lack of moisture hurt us?  Yes.  Is there still a crop to bring in though?  Definitely, yes.DSC_0218

Remind yourself of that if you’re looking at your fields with weary eyes.  We’ve had guys bring in ears for yield estimations and offer to sell now at 60 bushels per acre only to see their yield estimate come back at 110 bushels per acre.  That’s the terrible extent of the frustration that many of you are experiencing right now, and it’s making the situation look much worse than it actually is.  Remember 30 days ago when we were harvesting the wheat crop?  That looked pretty dire too, and our yield was much higher than anyone was expecting.

If you’re not satisfied to hang your hat on a few encouraging words though, there are actions that you can take now, regardless of the quality of your corn crop, to make the most of what you have.  However your crop hemorrhages (or not) between now and harvest, you are best served by taking care of your combine and ensuring that it is set correctly.  At $7 corn, you didn’t have to care about every kernel, but with the market where it is today, that wiggle room has vanished.  We will always experience some harvest loss, but it’s very worth it to do all you can to minimize that loss this year.

Mother Nature dealt us this hand and there’s nothing that we can do to change it.  That’s okay.  Sure, it’s kind of a lousy hand, but it could be worse.  We can be mad and play it badly, or we can play it to the best of our abilities and in the end, look back to see that we ended in a place far better than one would have expected.