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Corn growth and high yield management

Capturing yield starts with staying alert for crop stress.

In theory, any corn grower has the potential to produce 250 to 300 bushels of corn an acre. The yield potential is there, ready for you to grab it. Unfortunately, stress on the plant and other environmental factors cause plants to lose yield.

How do you manage corn for high yields? Of course, employing tried-and-true methods, using crop protection products wisely, and planting quality seeds are all important for success. But to truly capture yield potential, you must do everything you can to limit stress to the plants - and that means staying alert and being proactive.

Because corn seeds are made to meet their genetic potential, don't let stress and other factors hold them back.

Know Your Corn

Dewey Lee, Professor and Extension Grains Agronomist at the University of Georgia, advises growers to become true students of the plant. "Knowing the growth and development stages of your plant helps you know what it needs before reaching crucial growth stages," Lee explains. "You can also better understand what protection to give and what could impact the crop the most when you can recognize what stage the plant is in."

From the start, diseases and other stress can affect final yield. For instance, a corn plant's vegetative stage, lasting only about 30 to 45 days, determines the plant's ultimate leaf count, as no more leaves will develop after tasseling. "Stress has an impact from the very beginning, and the crop won't stop growing to wait for you to catch up," Lee says.

Get in Front

Knowing the growth and development stages of your plant can help you stay one step ahead. You should constantly scan fields for any factors that could cause stress and proactively handle them. After excessive rains, for example, your soil may need nutrients replenished. Spotting weeds and treating them early helps to avoid more costly "revenge killing" later.

"Be in front of the growth curve, because when the plant is under stress and you're a day late, yield is compromised," Lee says.

Experts recommend visiting the fields every day to scout for potential problems. Go to different parts of the fields to ensure you get the whole picture of health of your crop. "In addition to daily visits," Lee says, "I advise growers to keep meticulous records of leaf counts, temperature and nutrient levels, among other things." Daily scouting and thorough recordkeeping will help you track any problems your plants face.

Set a Goal

Simply determining and documenting a yield goal can help with yields, as it gives you a specific objective to aim for. "Always push to be a better grower, and chances are you will become one," says Lee.

For more information on high yield management in corn and other tips, consult your local Southern States Agronomy Professional.

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