The Cure for Downed Corn
Is Absolutely In Your Control
By Jeff Shaner | AgVenture Seed and Technology Manager
At a dinner party this past December I sat at a table with people I had not met before. Two of them were farmers from neighboring counties. One in particular had a lot to say about his struggles in late November and early December with harvested corn that was lying flat in the field. Upon noting that I work for a seed company, he turned to me and asked “What’s your company’s position on downed corn?”
Knowing the time and place to make certain statements is a bit of an art form, so I decided it wasn’t a good time to embarrass this farmer in front of multiple guests. I merely acknowledged that it was a widespread issue this year that didn’t seem to be partial to the products from any one seed company. It was a true, yet vague comment.
This is the right time and place. Here is what I wanted to tell him: Harvesting downed corn this past fall/winter was a frustrating endeavor experienced across a large portion of the Corn Belt. And it didn’t have to happen. Harvesting downed corn long after the crop was ripe for harvest was a decision, or better stated it was a series of decisions, that each farmer made along the way. A prolonged string of wet weather near the end is what we’ve all blamed it on, but it wasn’t the defining factor in your harvest experience.
First of all, there are some ground rules for this discussion:
- Am I talking about summer wind events that may knock over green corn plants? No.
- Am I saying that corn standing just fine until the end of October that then faced stalk deterioration beyond that point was a preventable outcome despite the wet fall? Absolutely, 100 percent yes.
- Am I expecting that several farmers might read this and be offended because they believe it was the fault of the weather or their hybrid? Yes. Yes, I am.
Let’s check in with a number of top professionals who helped their customers navigate the 2018 harvest challenges and see what we can learn from their observations.
Northern Indiana had more than its share of flat corn at season’s end. Troy McKillip of Wabash says a factor is seed furrow at spring planting. “Planting 2¼ inches deep on most soils is a must. That depth provides for proper brace root development and better soil nutrient acquisition—both items benefit the plant all season long. And plant into fit soil conditions. Tomahawked, compacted furrows do not allow for full root systems to evolve. The right planting days do come each spring. Be patient and place your seed into optimal starting conditions. How well you start affects how well you finish,” he says.
Jeff Jackson in Illinois has a lot to say about in-season management. “Downed corn was prevalent throughout this region. But I have about 19 customers who follow my full program recommendations from seed to fertility and fungicide to harvest schedule. Not a one of them faced downed corn. Late season stalk deterioration is mainly caused by either midseason disease pressure or nutrient deficiency or both. If you cut corners this past year on either of those two items (fungicide or fertility), you paid a dear price.”
Agronomist Jerry Hartsock of Cutting Edge Consulting and Research Services agrees. “Adding an R1 fungicide program paid huge dividends toward much improved standability and higher yields in 2018, as it did in 2017.” More from Jerry in a moment.
Jim Groepper, sales manager for AgVenture Pinnacle Iowa, goes straight to these in-season activities when you engage him in this conversation. “Look at the year we had. Record overall rainfall coupled with several particular deluges that dumped huge amounts all at once. Re-nitrifying was paramount to reaping rewards at harvest time. Multiple forms at multiple times is the best approach. For instance, we flew on about 35,000 acres (plus more with ground rigs) of our foliar N with micronutrients coupled with a fungicide that came at VT-R1 timing. Some patrons did two fungicide apps, but with corn price what it was, we didn’t push for everyone to do that. Now, what component made the biggest impact? Was it the N, micros or fungicide? I’m not going to lose sleep trying to figure that out. I do know that our comprehensive program made money for our AgVenture customers and brought about a much cleaner harvest experience,” Groepper says.
“That crop isn’t yours until it’s in the bin.”
That’s Jerry talking.
“I know farmers bringing in 5,000 acres who were finished before those with 2,000 acres. Your biggest yields are available to you at 25 percent moisture and above. Get after it!”
Mitch Snyder, sales and marketing manager for AgVenture McKillip Seeds in Indiana, made sure every customer he has knew an early harvest schedule was a must in 2018. “I told my customers to look at the writing on the wall. An intensely wet growing season made for all sorts of disease pressure with gray leaf spot and anthracnose leading the way. I know tar spot played a big role in other areas, too. These stalks are not going to stay out there until winter is near, so let’s get after it.”
The AgVenture Maximum Profit System™ (MPS) involves having a comprehensive plan for the entire crop year. Your AgVenture Yield Specialist (AYS) has firm ideas about how best to treat our products each step of the way: spring, summer and fall. What you may not know is that a vast network of individuals is backing up those ideas with success-driven results year after year.
Of course I’m aware it rained a lot this past fall and that dryer gas is expensive—two main reasons corn was left in the field way past its due date. But I’m here to tell you that many farmers continued to raise their average production history (APH) in 2018 despite those adverse conditions. Those farmers will tell you emphatically that fighting downed corn is a decision that rests entirely in your hands.