Is Your Corn Setup Properly?

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Recent cool weather across the Midwest has led to concerns about lack of crop growth. After months of preparation, we want to see the crop jump out of the ground and get an early start on what we hope to be record yields. We want that every year, but weather and reality sets in. This year is another cold reality.
Knowing this, it’s important to make sure farmers get the right advice from their most trusted advisors and crop production partners. Do they truly understand the difference between crop growth and crop development? Have they explained how that basic difference pays dividends in the fall?
Growth is the actual plant architecture and plant size. Development is the process of establishing new structures as the plant goes through its life cycle. Both are important, but how you address plant requirements along each stage of development is what leads to yield.
Recently, much of the planted corn crop was stuck at the emergence or V1 development stage, and there was little to no growing degree day accumulation. Above ground, plants sat there and didn’t seem to grow, and development was delayed. However, if proper nutrition was applied, root systems probably continued to grow and advance whole plant development below ground.
While seeing young plants struggle sparks frustration, it’s not the end of the world. What happens when soils warm up and having plants in a position to capitalize on warmer temperatures is all that matters now. A robust root system readies the plant to take and store nutrients as plants reach critical development stages, such as the start of ear formation.
The ear in each corn plant is set and ready to develop early on below ground. The conditions under which the ear first develops has a huge impact on yield potential. Specifically, the amount of phosphorus in the plant tissue during ear formation through V5 determines the kernel count potential. That phosphorus must be supplied to the plant via the root system.
If the phosphorus applied last fall or even in the furrow isn’t available to the plant, it’s done nothing to help you achieve maximum yields. Most commodity phosphorus aren’t available to the plant until soil temperatures are above 60 degrees for an extended period of time. That is something that 50-degree air temperatures don’t help. Link to Phosophorus Infograph.
There are many things that can and will affect a crop’s final yield, but what’s been done to this point may determine your success this fall. As temperatures warm, we’ll see big changes in the fields over the next week or two, and how well your plants are set up to capitalize on available nutrition will soon be apparent.
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