Fall Scouting

There’s valuable information that can be discovered during fall field scouting before and during harvest. It can help develop a harvest priority plan and provide insight for crop planning for the next season.

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Check corn ears for tip fill. If kernels are filled out completely to the ear tip, plant populations are likely too low. Expect about an inch of underdeveloped kernels at the ear tip if plant populations are at a high enough level to optimize grain yield per acre. Kernel abortion can be caused by stress resulting from heat, drought, severe nutrient deficiencies, insect silk clipping, or delayed silk emergence.

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Evaluate different products for tolerance of different management practices and stresses. Early stress from weed competition or low nitrogen (N) will reduce kernel row number and kernel number per row. Severe heat and moisture stress during the first seven to ten days after pollination will cause kernels at the tip of the ear to abort. Stress around pollination reduces cell division and potential starch fill causing shallow kernel depth and lighter test weight.

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Check corn product maturity in relation to the planting and emergence dates and the rate of drydown to determine which products are best suited to the farm. It takes about 30 days to go from dent to black layer/physiological maturity; another 15 days to reach 50% kernel milk; and another 15 days to black layer. Kernel moisture at black layer will average 32 to 35%.1 The tightness of the husk, thickness of the seed coat, and daily weather conditions influence the speed of kernel drydown. Products differ in the time it takes to reach harvest moisture from black layer. It is estimated that 15 to 20 growing degree units (GDU) per point of moisture are needed to lower kernel moisture from 35 to 25%, or 20 to 25 GDU/point of moisture to dry the grain from 25 to 20%.

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Investigate areas of corn where lower portions of the plant deteriorate prematurely. It may be caused by nitrogen stress. Excessive rainfall can leach N from the root zone and speed denitrification. Other causes of the symptoms may be compaction, drought, or insect root pruning.

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Evaluate and map fields for diseases such as gray leaf spot, eyespot, and Goss’s wilt. Look for lodging problems and test stalk strength by pinching lower internodes. If stalks are soft and compressed easily, lodging may be a problem. Mapping the intensity and location of weed infestations in corn and soybean can help identify changes in practices or herbicides and application timing that can be used in the next crop. It is also important to identify new, resistant, or exotic weed species early before they become difficult to manage. Scout soybean bean fields for diseases such as brown stem rot, sudden death syndrome, white mold, and charcoal rot.