Should Your Corn be Knee High by the Fourth of July?

STEVEThe Farmer’s Almanac used to predict that if corn was knee high by the Fourth of July, it would be a bumper crop.  That was a way of measuring, back in our Grandpa’s day.  This year we did our planting “back in time”, so will you go back in time to gauge your success next month?

Of course, you have to take into consideration that this rule was created long before fine-tuned hybrids, high-octane fertilizers, fungicides, herbicides and even irrigation systems that are now part of farming.  Nonetheless, I think we all have that phrase engrained in our memories.

Over the years, we have forgotten about knee high and have based it on “high as an elephant’s eye”.  But don’t forget that we should not base our expectations on what happened last year, but on the average over the past 20 years.

As of right now, Renville and Redwood Counties in MN are really in good shape, and we can expect a leaf of growth every day – to day and a half!  With that said, we are right on track to be knee high by the Fourth of July!  We are actually right where we need to be.

It is this time of year that we reflect back on last fall:

  • Did we do everything that we could have to prepare for the scenario that Mother Nature dealt us this spring?
  • Did we buy the correct seed and plant it at the best depth and speed to maximize growth potential?
  • Is our post-planting plan set to enhance the field conditions today?

Every decision we made after harvest until now; will show if what we have done is correct.  We believe that as long as every farmer keeps an eye on the conditions, adjusts accordingly to those needs both now, and throughout the growing season, we will not have any surprises come harvest time.

Tell us your prediction for your fields; are you on track for knee high by the 4th of July or even better?

2012 Observations from the Combine

When the 2012 crop year started last fall, there were many challenges that were facing the crop 6-8 months before it was even planted.  Most of the challenges were derived from the weather or lack of weather specific to rain.  There were many changes made to tillage programs last fall in dealing with ground that was less than ideal for preparing for the 2012 crop.  Farmers were up to the challenge to prepare an environment in each field that would give them the best chance at producing their best crop for 2012.  Last winter we spoke of how climate is what we expect, weather is what we get, and the environment is what we make of it.  While there are numerous examples of what weather did to your 2012 crop, I will focus specifically on the environment of each field.  I will also discuss how different management practices altered the environment to attain results that lessened the impacts of incremental weather events.

1.  Changes made during fall tillage (or the lack of changes) had a large effect on soil conditions at planting.
Keep the clods out of the field and keep the residue high and sized.  Fall tillage scenarios in which growers adjusted their equipment to work shallower than normal to keep the soil structure intact kept the ground level while sizing residue, as well as, fracturing the soil to keep the rough clods at bay.  By keeping the soil profile intact, the planter was able to plant the crop into a very level seed bed.  The residue remained high for the row cleaners to do their job on the planter as well.  Even the slightest amount of residue in the seed trench this year caused delayed emergence do the environmental factor of taking a soil profile void of moisture and putting air (residue) next to the seed.

2. Planting date was once again irrelevant.
The old adage of planting early to obtain high yields was once again not seen as we rode machines this fall.  Yes, sometime planting early can be advantageous, but top growers always keep in mind that it is the soil conditions at planting time that are the most important factor to producing a top crop, not planting date.

3.  Establishing a high ear count was not a challenge due to ideal planting conditions, keeping a high ear count from adverse weather was the #1 challenge that was faced this year.
As stated above, the planting date was irrelevant to final yields.  What was relevant was the action taken by growers who faced weather perils early in the year.  The effect of a pounding rain on emergence was seen across a wide area.  Those that took action and utilized a rotary hoe to help get as many full ears out of the ground were paid huge dividends on final yields.  Those that took action in mid-May as the country side turned black with dust from high winds to keep their crop from being set back by sandblasting had a better chance at producing greater yields than those that did nothing.

4.  The effects of early season nitrogen applications, as well as, starter fertilizer provided an environment that alleviated stress going into pollination.
In fields where both were applied, the kernel set was outstanding.  The plants demand for nitrogen and phosphorus at pollination are at their greatest need.  Making sure the plant was fed correctly early in the growing season helped establish a root system that could handle the stresses that were endured during pollination when the plants focus turns to a reproductive state.

5.  The focus on bushels per thousand plants instead of plant populations tells the tale of how management and weather affected this years crop.
On average (whatever average is) a corn plant will produce approximately 6 Bu per thousand plants.  What we saw on combines was a wide variance in what the final number was.  We saw ranges of 4 bushel per thousand to 7.25 bushels per thousand across all varieties and fields this year.  What were the key factors in producing such a wide difference in the outcome of these yields?  The obvious answer is weather.  Whether it was early pounding rains or areas where we went 8 weeks without rain, in some instances both were the case for the same field.  While the water or lack of water played a role, the differences emerged in how the ground was set up last fall, how well it was planted, and the mindset of the grower to focus on the right agronomic differences to provide a different outcome in the face of the same weather.  In areas where wind events caused the lodging or flattening of the crop, we saw what the loss of the photosynthetic factory did in reducing the plants ability to fill the cob, thus reducing the bushels per thousand plants.  Keeping in mind that these wind events affected the healthiest, most robust, plants in the field, thus they were more susceptible to catching the wind with greater foliage.  When the plant did go down, the final yields were almost based entirely on how well the plant was fed to the specific event when the plant stopped worrying about filling and turned its focus onto making grain that was already on the cob.

6. Drainage matters.
We asked our growers to rank the soil condition at planting, and most of our growers ranked their soil conditions an 8 or 9 on average.  What we saw after planting was the adverse way that water, depending on the amount and location in a field, can do to variability in the outcome of the yield.  We all know that drainage always pays for itself by way of improving soil conditions at planting, thus equating to even emergence and improved utilization of nutrients in the plant throughout the remainder of the growing season.  My hypothesis of the low ground yielding higher this year, in large part due to the lack of water from June through August was quickly proven otherwise on the combines this fall.  Even with the same ear count, there were great differences in yields within the field based off of early season water and drainage.  Where the water was utilized and drained, the plants ability to get its roots down and continue to search for moisture and nutrients pre-pollination were extremely important.  In the poorly drained sections of the field, a shovel quickly provided insight as to how lazy the roots got early in the growing season.  Also, when they entered the pollination phase, they had little to nothing to overcome the stress and needs of the plant.  Keeping in mind that the plants energy at pollination to fill goes into producing kernels, not roots!

7.  Fungicide and foliar nutrients during pollination eliminated undue stress on the plant.
The stress that was seen and observed on the combines was the plants ability to handle heat stress. Even the smallest amount of rainfall after pollination equated to large differences in the cooling of the canopy.  The crops roots are their radiator, we all know what happens when a radiator runs with no water in it.  The plants roots simply could not keep up with the demands of the environmental factors stressing the plant.  By giving the plant a steroid shot, we gained the ability to keep the plant thinking it needs to stay alive and continue to fill in hopes of getting rain to let the roots go back to work.  Keeping corn plants alive longer is vital due to the structure of how a corn plant works.  Corn is an indeterminate plant.  When it senses bad things are going to happen, or death, it focuses all its energy on maturing the kernels it has for reproduction.  The corn plant does not care how many kernels it has to reproduce, it only wants to reproduce.  What we want is the corn plant to produce as many kernels as possible as that is how we get paid.  By spraying the crop at pollination, it came down to a battle of attrition of our wants to keep the plant alive versus the plants wants to die.  Many people had questions as to why the beans performed so well in a dry year.  The simple answer is in the structure of the bean plant itself.  Beans are a determinate plant.  The bean plant will shut down almost to the point of death in the face of stress waiting for better times to add flowers, pods, and ultimately beans.  We get several chances for the bean to reproduce more flowers to produce more yields, whereas the corn plant only flowers once.  The beans waited and waited and finally got what they needed in late July to ultimately determine their final yields.  This was especially true where fungicide was applied; it simply allowed the plant more time to focus on reproduction.  If you think about why and when fungicides and foliar nutrients were applied this year, it was when the plants were stressed and did not have the abilities to get what they needed from their roots.  Whether it was at the V4-V6 stage early in the corn crop, or during pollination in the beans and corn, the plants demands for nutrients were not being met so we had to supplement with foliar applications.

8. Early harvest pays large dividends.
It happened again.  Two years in a row where a rapid dry down has occurred.  One thing that needs to be noted for future years is that in “stress” years corn needs to be harvested in a timely manner.  The timeliness of harvest equated to large differences in yields.  As every day passed this fall, Mother Nature was doing her best to steal as much yield away from us as possible.  In my years of riding combines I have yet to hear a grower say I wish I would have waited to start combining.

9. Success was based on the mindset of the grower.
Even in years when yield goals may not be achieved, the successes, no matter how big or small, are based on the mindset of the grower.  Having the right attitude at planting and maintaining the same problem solving positivity throughout the growing season has and always will equate to greater separation in yields.  The mindset starts with 3-5 year yield goals that are then broken down onto a field by field basis.  Once the crop plan is developed and in place, the yield building systems begin to take shape.  These systems keep all in the operation moving towards the goal of increasing yields, no matter what interference can happen during the growing season.  When you deviate from the crop plan, it can turn into a crisis management plan and that simply never works.

Production: Farming, Crop and Bushels Per Acre

What is Production The dictionary says:

1. The act or process of producing.

2. Something produced; product. 3. The total number of products; output,

1 = Farming   2= Crop   3= Bushels per Acre

Farmers are probably the most unique businessmen there are.  They need to understand more than the average corporate business person.  They need to comprehend the science of seed and soil.  They need to be accountants, purchasers, mechanics and welders.  They have to be a weather forecaster, and depending on their farm operation, may also have to be nutritionists and a veterinarian.  With all that said, they still need to “farm”.  A farmer needs to protect and nurture their crop from planting to harvest.

I remember hearing “the farmer only works two months out of the year: May & October” which is absolutely not the case!  It is all that can be done in between those seasons that will help to maximize bushels per acre and revenue per acre.  Starting with the right seed for your soil conditions is only the beginning. As you know, you can’t control Mother Nature.  How you handle what she gives us is the one thing you can control!

The weather will determine how you will nurture your crop.  A great example is feeding a diabetic; they do best when fed small meals all day long.  The same idea applies with farming; nurture your crop by applying multiple applications of fertilizer and routinely apply fungicides in combination with other pesticides.  Farmers who follow this philosophy will reap the benefit of higher yields as the plants will be healthier all season long.

What factors are keeping you from consistently producing maximum bushels?

Check the ones you already have in place:

__A 3 year goal and plan to reach higher yields

__Control over my production and yield strategy

__The right people in place to help me reach my goals

__Completed cropping plans prior to harvest each year

__Confidence in which seed and technologies to purchase

__Expertise in the latest agronomic practices to achieve my goals

__ Proficiency in advanced tillage practices

98% of Corn Capital Innovations growers raise yields to new levels and significantly lower their per unit production costs!  The 2% that don’t do this, do not follow our program.

Other factors to consider include protecting your investment with Crop Insurance, increasing profitability with Grain Marketing and generating revenue using Financial Management.

Contact us to help you increase your production as you nurture your field this growing season!


ROI The Biggest Factor in Farming Success!

 Why do you farm? Some of you may say it’s because of the life style, the freedom, the independence and the opportunity to work outdoors. Others will say they farm because it’s a good place to raise a family and teach children about nature. But along with those important reasons most of our 21st century AgVenture customers will add that they farm to make money. It’s a business for them and they want it to be as successful as possible.

Farming is one of the only industries that has made a sudden, about face in the past few years when it comes to the potential to make money. Growers finally have the opportunity to get paid for their hard work and make more money than they ever thought possible. A paradigm shift has occurred in all of agriculture, at least for those who are serious about the farming business. Production agriculture has changed from hoping for good yields as the only source of income, to integrating a system for creating yields with grain marketing strategies, crop insurance programs and financial goals. The result is a whole new way of “on farm” thinking called Return On Investment, ROI, not bushels per acre. Profits from this new way of managing a farm will greatly enhance farm life as we know it.

21st century farmers will have more opportunity than almost anyone before them to rent or buy more land, bring a family member into the operation, pay down debt or simply retire early, debt free. That’s because AgVenture customers will have more opportunity than ever to put their ROI system into play. If there was ever a time in crop production to focus on ROI, it is the current growing season. Convincing some growers they needed to re-nitrify their crop or apply fungicides after considerable crop devastation was often not an easy task. But with record high farm prices and the ability to produce a better crop than other growers through the use of MPS, farmers are learning how to better Maximize ROI.

If farmers are actually doing things different in their corn production programs to force record yields, even when the crop seems lost, then top corn yields become synonymous with top ROI for that year.

Make ROI, Return On Investment your focus and the new language you speak for the next few years. When you do, you will notice a huge change in how you manage your business. You will focus less on costs and more on a system for raising higher yields and marketing your grain while protecting your revenue with the right kind of Crop Insurance. But best of all, you WILL be the one retiring early, debt free.