We learned at the university that it takes nitrogen, starter, planting the proper hybrid, planting earlier, and increasing population to grow corn. However, most growers don't grow 300 bushel corn, but are doing the above 5 things. So what are the farmers that grow high yield corn doing, they are focusing on their soil.
Not just for P and pH, do a full analysis. While having enough P and the proper pH are some major limiting factors, they are not all of them. Do a full analysis at least every other year. If you're having a field grid sampled, have them pull a couple of extra samples to run a full analysis on.
Budget for soil maintenance
Top producing farmers know that their soil will always perform if they add back what they take every year. Plan on a yearly maintenance program, budgeting money for lime and/or gypsum, P, secondary, and micronutrients. Once you're in a nutrient deficient situation, it takes time and is expensive to correct.
Scout the whole field
Scout the soil, stop scouting only half your crop; know what is happening in the root zone. Most farmers are only concerned with what is happening with their crop above ground. They neglect more than half the plant. Dig next to the row, how are the roots growing, is there a visible hard pan, is moisture making it down into the soil profile, do you have large numbers of earthworms. If you cannot get a shovel in the ground by standing on it, you have compaction and your roots will not be able grow properly.
Proper residue management
Residue management starts with the header attachment on the combine. With corn make sure the header is processing the stalks, and the combine is only processing the ear and husks. Not only will this increase combine efficiency, it will distribute the residue more evenly, resulting in faster decomposition of stalks. Complete and proper decomposition increases organic matter and returns valuable nutrients to the soil.
Figure out what else is missing
For many farmers it is not a lack of N, P, K or pH that is keeping their yields low it is something else. Ignore lack of rainfall, and other things that are out of your control. Think about the things you can change; tillage, micronutrient levels, and organic matter. If your having problems achieving high yields, it is likely due to one or more problems associated with your soil.
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The Blogronomist is maintained by Craig Dick, head blogronomist and VP of Sales and Marketing. Here you will find a wide array of blog articles from Craig and expert guests on topics related to soil and crop health, farming, and so much more. If it’s not here, ask us!