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Spring Is Almost Here - Corn
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Last week we discussed wheat heading into spring. Today’s column focuses on getting ready for the 2016 corn crop. Corn planting, depending on Mother Nature’s whims, could start in as little as five weeks, especially dryland corn. For many corn producers what is listed below may have already been decided, especially with discounts for early seed orders and locking in lower prices for inputs. So what goes into getting ready to plant a corn crop? Keep in mind though not mentioned here, the selection of tillage systems plays a large role in some of these decisions.
• Acreage – Based upon price prospects, projected input costs, crop rotation, and other issues such as weed control and tillage, producers first decide how much of their acreage they will devote to corn. For dryland producers, another consideration is the moisture status of the soil profile and projections for the growing season.
• Hybrid selection – Dryland vs. irrigated, crop rotation, soil type and weather all play a role in selecting the proper hybrids. Notice hybrids not hybrid since any one planting significant acreage is well-advised to select several hybrids with varying maturities and traits. The best source of data regarding hybrid selection is independent performance trials from something like the Crop Performance Testing Program at K-State. Unfortunately, there is no data for dryland corn within a 60 mile radius of Great Bend and the nearest irrigated test is near Macksville on sandy soil. The next best source is form the companies themselves or local strip tests conducted by area farmers and seed dealers. Producers need to decide what traits are most important to their operation, whether to select a race horse or a workhorse, and perhaps what trait herbicide tolerance and pest management traits are important to them.
• Fertility – As has been stated in many articles, a good soil testing program is the foundation for optimal crop yields. Once you have established your soil nutrient status, the next step is a realistic yield goal based on experience, more and more commonly yield mapping, and the best guess for the 2016 cropping season. This logically leads you to your fertility needs. The only nutrient to wait a while to determine is soil nitrogen.  
• Pest control – Many of the most common insect pests such as cornborer, wireworm and rootworm can be effectively managed through the Bt trait and seed treatments. The only caution is that rootworm corn with the Bt trait is in some instances breaking down so it may be important to monitor the situation and in some cases use a soil insecticide. For weed control, even with the glyphosate tolerant trait, a pre-emergence herbicide program tied to post-emergence glyphosate application combined with another post herbicide mode of action is critical with the increasing instance of herbicide resistant weeds. The only caution with some herbicides is to check the rotation interval.
This column always ends with there’s more and that’s certainly the case here.