May 22, 2024

Crop prospects mixed across Corn Belt

Chad Kalaher, field agronomist in east-central and northeast Illinois, makes a point about nitrogen application recommendations, along with Jim Schwartz (from right), director of research, agronomy and PFR, and Jon Skinner, regional agronomy manager in Illinois and Iowa, at the Beck’s Central Illinois Field Show at El Paso, Illinois.

EL PASO, Ill. — Agronomists covering a broad area of the Corn Belt gave their insights on crop conditions, nitrogen applications and other topics recently at Beck’s Central Illinois Field Show.

Jim Schwartz, director of research, agronomy and Practical Farm Research; Jon Skinner, regional agronomy manager in Illinois and Iowa; and Chad Kalaher, field agronomist in east-central and northeast Illinois, took part in the question-and-answer session.

What are you seeing in the fields in your areas?

Kalaher: We didn’t suffer a loss of nitrogen in our corn crop this year, which is a very positive thing. We went through a dry stretch for about six weeks until around June 28.

We’re pretty much disease-free. I mean you can find diseases now if you look really hard, but overall we’re pretty disease free, and that would line up with last year. Yes, there’s been some fungicide applications that were made and that’s not a bad thing, but pretty much disease-free in corn.

Yes, we’ve had some hot weather, but recently here in August, when we continue to get rainfall, we’re going to add test weight. We’re going to see some good yields, I think. So, I’ve got just as much potential in my mind as far as corn yields as we had last year.

I’m not as optimistic on soybean yields. We always talk about soybean yields being made in August with rainfall. The reason I say I’m not quite as optimistic is because I’ve seen sudden death syndrome show up a little bit earlier than normal and also I’m seeing quite a bit of phytophthora root rot in my area.

Skinner: There’s quite a few soybean diseases that are starting to sneak in a little bit. Sudden death syndrome is one of them. All season when we went through that dry spell and then got a flush of rain in a lot of areas, it really caused phytophthora to flare up quite a bit.

As you get into west-central Illinois, we’re starting to see red crown rot that’s affecting some fields. So, there’s been quite a few diseases that are sneaking in on soybeans.

I received a lot of commentary from farmers early in the season that it was one of the best soybean stands that they’ve had.

Early establishment, it seemed like every seed we planted came out of the ground and did well. Stand establishment was good. It just notched a little bit off as we went through the season.

On the corn side for area I cover, it’s variable. A lot of really good stuff. Some of the earliest planted corn had a little reduction in stands, but for the most part they were good stands.

Depending on where you’re at in Illinois, you went from May 7 to the first week of July with minimal, if any, rainfall. That didn’t seem to knock us back too much. We may have a little reduced plant height, but kernel rows around seem good, early length seems fairly good.

There were a few issues during the pollination process in the area I cover. There was a lot of heat, a lot of heat at night, which causes some not to get pollinated at all, and once it did get pollinated there was a little kernel abortion.

I expect Illinois and Iowa as a whole to be slightly down from last year, but I still think we’ll have a pretty good crop.

Schwartz: Western Kansas and western Nebraska dryland is getting more rain than they’ve probably got in the last 10 years combined, but there’s also parts of Kansas and northeast Nebraska that were very, very dry. That’s hurt their crop.

There’s some parts of southwest Missouri where, for the second year in a row, they chopped the corn three or four weeks ago, and there’s other parts of Missouri that are pretty variable.

Planting was very late in Minnesota because of early season rain, so their crop is delayed quite a bit. It’s pretty good. It’s just very much delayed. The crops are decent in Wisconsin. Michigan was dry for a long time, but it’s pretty good.

In Indiana, from the second week of May to the first week of June we had four-tenths of rain, but a really interesting thing. If you look on the drought monitor where we’re at in northern Indiana it would show that we’re in a drought, but we caught a lot of timely rain and it’s a pretty good crop. Ohio has been very wet and there is a little bit of crown rot and a little more disease there.

Turning to nitrogen recommendations, what are your thoughts on sidedressing dry poly-coated urea on corn?

Skinner: Topdressing urea is my least favorite form of nitrogen sidedress application. In our PFR results and in commercial fields, we have a high probability of loss, especially through volatilization. So, I see it as a high-risk proposition going out there.

Then in our PFR results, any time we put nitrogen on top of the soil surface or any time we delay our nitrogen applications at V6 or later, we saw a reduction in yield and return on investment every time.

If it was preplant sidedress and incorporated, or if was Y-drop or it was weed-and-feed, we saw a reduction by putting it on the soil surface because of the potential for loss.

Kalaher: That’s the highest risk form you can go out there with. I know it’s going to be a cheaper form. The interesting thing about poly-coated urea is it’s still going to take moisture to dissolve the polymer coating on each of those prills of urea. It’s going to protect it a little bit, but it’s still volatile. What if a urease inhibitor is used?

Skinner: I think that buys you 14 days maximum. If we would have applied it on corn June 5 in my area, we went a month without rain and you still would have had a high potential for loss.

If someone wants to use urea, would you recommend using a urease inhibitor?

Skinner: I would, especially if we’re in periods of questionable rainfall. Untreated urea at 85 degrees over five days loses 85% of the nitrogen you apply to the soil. That’s the risk of it.

What form and timing do you recommend for a nitrogen application?

Skinner: I like planter-applied nitrogen, somewhere around 30 to 50 units if you have that capability, and then if I’m sidedressing nitrogen. I typically recommend starting around that V3 timeframe to get it on there. That way it’s going to have time to go through those conversion process because portions of that nitrogen have to be available for the plant.

Once we hit V6, V7, the corn will start taking up a whole lot of nitrogen real quick, about seven to 10 pounds a day depending on the hybrid. So, having it there, in a form that’s ready for it is when I like it.

If you have high-clearance machines, we can see some benefit of putting that application off a little bit, but what I always weigh-in, too, is if we’re waiting until V9, V10 to put on a high rate of nitrogen, there’s a lot of risk there, especially in the northern half of Illinois where we tend to somewhere every year have a windstorm that gives us some stuff laid over and we can’t physically do it.

I like to put it there when the plant needs it. I like planter-applied fertility followed by a sidedress earlier in the season than later.

Kalaher: How late is too late? We probably would not apply nitrogen after pollination. It depends on the source that you’re using. It takes time to convert to available forms of uptake like ammonium nitrate.

There’s a lot of factors that go into it in addition to rainfall amounts after application, but generally we’re in favor of not apply nitrogen after tassel or pollination.

Schwartz: At all of our PFR farms, when we moved the nitrogen on both sides of the row and went from 30 to 60 pounds, so 30 pounds on both sides of the row, it’s interesting when you start looking at our nitrogen rate study.

This includes Effingham, Illinois, and Ohio soil. These are poorly drained clay. We’re raising 230-plus bushel corn with 160 pounds of applied nitrogen because we’re splitting it. We’re putting it on both sides of the row, early, more upfront; we’re getting plenty of fertility.

That is one of my top three PFR Proven data — nitrogen on both sides of the row. I’m a big believer in split applications. I realize logistics can be an issue and you have to put gas on in the fall. I get that, especially if you mover further east, split applications are a big benefit.

Tom Doran

Tom C. Doran

Field Editor