Use long-term trends as planning guide
Many producers use the past season as a guide for planning for the next one, but that isn't the best policy for growers who want to get the most from each acre, says a DuPont Pioneer crop production expert. Instead, it's best to plan for next year by looking at the long-term weather trends.
"This past growing season was obviously extremely dry for most growers across the Corn Belt and many of them are suffering from the drought as they plan for harvest--and the next growing season," says Brent Wilson, DuPont Pioneer technical services manager. "But weather changes from year to year and we can't predict the next growing season. Rather than using this year's drought as a guide, growers should look at several seasons and rely on that information to make decisions."
Wilson offered these suggestions for growers at a forum at the Farm Progress Show recently in Boone, Iowa.
Seed product selection for the following year is on most growers' minds this time of year and following harvest. Wilson reminds producers that 2012 was not a typical year in most regions and suggests relying on years prior to 2012 for product selection and placement. He says making product selections based on one year of experience alone may not be a sound strategy.
As far as fertilizer application for 2013, most growers planned for a larger crop than they realized, says Wilson, and they should use grain removal as a guide for phosphorous and potassium application. Due to the drought, there may be opportunities to take nitrogen credits going into next year. Nitrogen is mobile with soil moisture and may move or disappear with wetter soils. Waiting until spring to apply nitrogen may allow better decisions on how much nitrogen may be available for the following crop.
"After a drought year, herbicide carryover may be a big concern, but that's often difficult to predict," says Wilson. "Microbes in cooler fall temperatures are not as effective in breaking down herbicide compounds, but the chemicals are broken down best in warm spring soils. Water can also help degrade the compounds.
"Know your chemicals to help you determine if there might be carryover. Look at your records and labels to know exactly what herbicides were on each field. You might know the retail name of a product, but not be familiar with all the active ingredients in the mix. It's best to contact an expert--such as your local crop protection dealer or university Extension specialist--for information on possible carryover concerns."
Wilson says weeds may be more prevalent next year due to less-than-ideal weed control during the dry weather. He recommends checking fields for an inventory of which weeds are growing.
"You'll probably not find new weeds in your field, just a shift in populations," he says. "You may find that some large seeded weeds that can germinate from deeper in the soil may be more common. You may want to consider a broad spectrum herbicide to cover both broadleaf weeds and grasses. Be on the lookout for glyphosate-resistant weeds that you may have noticed earlier in the season and plan your weed control program accordingly for 2013."
A new insect for some corn growers--the Japanese beetle--is moving westward. The beetle is usually not a significant problem in normal years, but can be devastating in tough years with weakened plants. Wilson suggests putting the Japanese beetle on the list of insects to scout for in 2013.
"Corn rootworm is a bigger problem if we have a dry, warm winter, followed by dry conditions," he says. "In wet years, microbes that attack rootworms are more prevalent, hence the growing problem in dry conditions.
"Of course, one way to manage rootworm is through crop rotation--from corn to soybeans. Growers may also want to consider a new mode of action in corn rootworm resistant traits, especially if they've used the same one for several years. Corn rootworm insecticide treatments are also something to consider.
Wilson says that soil insects may be more prevalent in 2013 and may escalate if dry, warm conditions continue. Growers should ask their seed professional about seed treatment programs that can help protect their seed investments against these soil pests.
"While 2012 was an extreme year for most, it may all change next season," says Wilson. "Plan for next year by looking beyond the past season as a guide and be conscious of what can impact the crop in a post-drought year. We can't predict the weather, but we can prepare for the coming season."