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Evaluating Early Season Corn And Soybean Stands

By Greg Roth Professor of Agronomy
Corn at V3 stage in Centre County showing uniform spacing and development.
Corn planting has progressed at a rapid pace (7% to 72% in the last two weeks!) and with the warm temperatures; emergence has been rapid in many areas. Development is coming along nicely as well with some corn here approaching V3. One interesting thing this year is that corn has developed a good green color early without going through the yellow phase that often happens in cool springs.
Evaluating Early Season Corn and Soybean Stands
Take time now to observe some of the stands and use that to fine tune your management in the future. Our planting technology has come a long way during my career and many of the major stand issues are not as prevalent as they were in the past. Nevertheless there still are issues out there to be on the lookout for.
  • Wildlife damage: Seeds dug up or sprouts pulled out. Often associated with crows, wild turkeys, or chipmunks
  • Hairpinning in residue: Seed placed in residue in seed slot. With no seed to soil contact, germination and emergence is poor. Row cleaners have helped to eliminate this but it still can be an issue.
  • Fertilizer damage: stunted plants, skips in rows, burning on root tips and no sign of insect feeding. Often associated with high rates (more than 10 lb/acre N + K2O on seed) of popup fertilizers and dry or sandy soil conditions.
  • Excessive doubles or skips: caused by worn or misadjusted planter meters or other planter parts.
  • Variation in emergence: caused by inconsistent seed depth or hairpinning. Often related to variation in residue, planting speed and shallower planting.
In soybeans, I would be looking for several things in newly emerged stands. First, I would assess the population to give you some feedback on emergence rates. Next I would try to diagnose factors related to mortality of those that didn’t come up. With high levels of corn fodder, seed to soil contact could be an issue this year. Seedling rots and seed corn maggots can be issues in a few fields as well. In tilled fields planted under dry conditions, we could have some potential for crusting if followed by heavy rain and hot conditions. Finally, I would be looking at these early emerging fields for bean leaf beetle damage.

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