View from combine is valuable
Question: What should I be learning from my fields as I harvest my corn crop?
Terry Hoover: The most obvious observation is how much corn you are hauling to the bin. But harvest is also a great time to evaluate what you did right and what you can improve for next year.
Question: Is it the key time to evaluate hybrids?
Hoover: Unfortunately, harvest is the first time since planting that some have entered their fields. When this is the case, growers can get caught up in what a particular hybrid did or didn’t do, instead of knowing why that particular hybrid performed the way it did.
Question: Who has time to check how they performed?
Hoover: Many times farmers make the comment that their corn was stalk or root lodged, or that they saw ears lying on the ground while harvesting. I usually ask if they stopped the combine when they saw this to do some investigating. I have been in this business long enough to know that most farmers do not stop in the middle of harvest to see why they have dropped ears or stalk-lodged corn.
Question: How can you be harvesting if you are tissue testing?
Hoover: I’m not saying you have to bring out the shovel and tape measure to determine what is going on in your fields. But to find out why you have ears on the ground, you need to look at that plant before it goes through the combine. There could be a number of reasons why you have dropped ears. Are the shanks underdeveloped for the ear? Is there decay or insect damage in the shank? These things can’t be seen from the combine seat, and it is much harder to find these answers after the plant has gone through the combine.
Question: What if I just don’t have time to stop?
Hoover: If you have stalk-lodged or root-lodged corn, you still have some opportunities to determine why after the crop has been harvested. It is possible to do root digs after harvest to see if there was root feeding. If the problem lies within the stalk, it becomes a bit more difficult, but you can look at the stalk and leaves to see if they have stalk rot and/or other disease.
Question: So what’s next?
Hoover: While this is an opportunity to discover things that went right or wrong this past year, it does not make up for walking fields during the growing season. Make a commitment to walk fields at each stage of crop growth. Pay attention to emergence, pretassel, pollination, grain fill and preharvest stages.
Record any changes you would like to make for next year, and also any challenges you may see in particular fields, so a history can be established and management practices can be adjusted. Problems at harvest are easier to manage if you are aware of them ahead of time.
This article published in the October, 2010 edition of OHIO FARMER.