NDSU Extension - Griggs County

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April 9

The Extension Connection Column by Jeff Stachler

Keys to Successful Corn Production

Good day to all! 

Some spring annual weeds are starting to emerge such as field pennycress and planting of wheat has begun!  Soil temperatures for bare soil at four inches deep on Monday at 3:00 PM was 56 degrees Fahrenheit.

There is one more in-person virtual horticulture meeting taking place at the County Courthouse on April 12, 2021 from 6:30 to 8:30 PM.

Corn is the third most grown crop in Griggs County.  Corn Yields have been increasing in the state at 1.6 bushels per acre per year.

The most important key to successful corn production is choosing a hybrid to match the maturity of the hybrid for the number of growing degree days in our area.  According to NDAWN weather data, the average number of total growing degree days in Griggs County is 2152 with a range from 1956 in 2019 to 2304 in 2015.  The growing degree day totals are from May 1st to October 1st.     

Important criteria to consider when selecting a hybrid are yield, yield stability, maturity, specialty traits, disease resistance, and stalk quality. 

When choosing a hybrid for yield and yield stability obtain unbiased research data such as the North Dakota 2020 Corn Variety Trial Results (https://www.ag.ndsu.edu/varietytrials/corn/2020-trial-results). 

For maturity, choose hybrids that fit our growing degree days, if that information is available, or plant hybrids from 75 to 90 days relative maturity. 

As for choosing specialty traits, it may be warranted to purchase hybrids having Bt traits to control above ground larval insects, however there is no need to choose hybrids having Bt traits for corn rootworm, unless corn is being planted after corn.  Other specialty traits to consider are herbicide resistance traits.  With the amount or glyphosate-resistant waterhemp and kochia in our area, additional herbicides will need to be applied if you purchased glyphosate-resistant corn.

It is extremely important to purchase hybrids having resistance to Goss’s wilt and stalk rots.  Resistance to other diseases can be beneficial, but resistance to these diseases are critical.

Plant corn early.  Planting corn in early May is recommended to maximize the growing season.  Planting earlier can be done if weather is favorable.  Corn can grow, although slowly, when soil temperatures are 50 degrees Fahrenheit, however to maximize yield, all plants should emerge at once.  It is preferred to have all corn plants emerge within 48 to 72 hours of each other.  Warmer soil temperatures will ensure faster and more uniform emergence.

Plant corn 1.5 to 2.0” deep.  Corn should be planted at least to a depth of 1.5” for proper development of the nodal root system.  If we stay dry that will be another reason to be sure to plant the corn over 1.5” deep.

Another key to successful corn production is weed control.  Corn does not compete well against weeds, especially grassy weeds as they are taking the nitrogen away from the corn.  Moderately to dense weeds should not get over two inches in height otherwise they will be competing against the corn.  The best strategy to managing weeds in corn is to apply a preemergence herbicide after planting if planting into tilled soil then follow with the appropriate postemergence herbicides to manage the weeds present.

The most important nutrient to manage for corn is nitrogen and it needs lots of it and t it can be difficult to apply the correct amount.  Nitrogen recommendations should be based on an economic production function that takes into account the yield response of corn to added nitrogen, less the cost of he nitrogen.  This recommendation is called the “return to nitrogen” approach.  In Table 9 of the Basics of Corn Production in North Dakota (https://www.ag.ndsu.edu/publications/crops/basics-of-corn-production-in-north-dakota/a834.pdf), nitrogen rates are suggested for soils in our area when historic corn yields are greater than 160 bushels per acre.  This chart says that if the price of nitrogen is $0.30 per pound and the price of corn is $4.00 per bushel, then the total amount of nitrogen recommended is 234 pounds per acre.

Good luck with the corn growing season.  May we receive timely rainfall.

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