The 2019 Crop is Facing a Challenging Spring

By Jerry Hartsock | Cutting Edge Consulting and Research Services

2019 Crop Faces Challenging Spring - emerging corn - AgVenture

From Colorado to Delaware and Minnesota to Mississippi, the entire Corn Belt is facing a multitude of challenges this spring. Harvest took forever or is not even completed in many states. Compaction issues abound and gullies or ruts exist in many fields from poor harvest conditions. Fall tillage, strip tilling, fall fertilizing and anhydrous ammonia applications are not completed or even started in several growing regions. All of these tasks need to be completed in a timely manner prior to planting and at high standards if the 2019 crop is to get off to a great start. The headline for the 2019 crop is shaping up to be: 


The biggest concern I see is that corn yields are dependent on how things go at planting. Corn requires a great start to ensure uniform emergence and increase its ability to weather stress—both of which impact yield.

Many tasks are required to produce a great start, including providing fit soil conditions. The following list presents what to do and not do to ensure a successful growing season despite the challenges we’re facing.

  • During drier conditions, fall is usually a much better time to alleviate compaction to allow fracturing of the top 8 to 12 inches of ground. Spring conditions are usually wetter below 4 inches and deeper tillage tools like chisel plows need to run shallow, if at all.
  • Doing less tillage or using a true vertical tillage tool such as a Kuhn Krause Excelerator®, Great Plains Turbo-Max® or Salford are generally good options. Let your floating row cleaners on the planter do the rest.
  • A tandem disc, field cultivator or soil finisher will tear out root balls on continuous corn and should be avoided because they put residue exactly where you don’t want it: at the same depth as planted seeds. Typically, residue next to seeds equals delayed emergence.
  • Continuous corn is a bigger challenge than rotated acres because the late harvest and delayed tillage compromises residue breakdown. In addition, applying nitrogen in the fall to accelerate residue decomposition is not effective or economically beneficial in the long run.
  • Leaving residue on the surface poses fewer problems than mixing it into the soil profile and having it next to planted seeds.
  • Fertilizer applicators will be tested on their ability to get a significant amount of fertilizer applied this spring rather than last fall when it is usually spread.
  • Starter fertilizer with micros pays bigger returns in these situations: (1) colder, wetter soils; (2) continuous corn situations; (3) lower fertility; and (4) with racehorse hybrids. Modern day hybrids respond to starters better than hybrids eight, 10 or 12 years ago. Starter fertilizer helps plants overcome stress and sets more rows around on the ear.
  • You should be able to plant corn in 10 good days of running at 4 mph. If that’s not possible, add another planter.
  • The best time to plant treated soybeans is pretty much the best time to plant corn: late April to early May.
  • The highest corn yields always come from great stands of corn, higher fertility levels, early and safe weed control, and fungicide use.
  • Get a second opinion from Money Makers in your Farming Circle of Influence to verify that you are doing the right things to ensure top end yields and profitability.