Mid-Season Yield-Boosting Decisions

From fungicide to fertilizer, these decisions are part science, part hunch

We are at the time in the year when plant health, fungicide, insecticide, and late season fertilizer decisions are made. So, are any of these the keys to higher yields?

Many claim to have the answers, though generally proof is lacking. Those that do actually know keep it close to their vest. You can go listen to them speak and never learn anything. It is impossible to personally run all the trials necessary to prove which products or combinations work.

Emotions can cloud judgment. Don't trust them! Fear is the biggest culprit. 'What if I don't use this, how much yield might I leave in the field?' 'What if this is the next big thing, I don't want to miss out!'

For some reason, farmers don't seem to leave test strips. I wonder if greed doesn't figure in here.

So, what are the keys?

• First, realize nature is going to determine the bulk of your yield potential. A 5-10% increase from any treatment or combination of treatments would be exceptional.

• Treat the soil right. Have good fertility and eliminate compaction.

• As much as I hate to admit it: move slow! A product won't stick around if it doesn't have merit. Let others do the testing!

• Treat what is there or likely to be there. Determine if there is a fertility deficiency. Find out what the pest pressures are. Has the weather been conducive to disease?

• Research the products before using them. Ask for data. Do some trials or leave strips.

• Don't be emotional.

• Evaluate whether there was an economic return above the cost.

Here's where I stand today
This week, I have read a lot of labels. I've researched plant hormones and fungicides. Some people swear by them, while others swear at them, calling them snake oil.

Labels are often vague. Looking at the first three labels, I realized the amount of product in each brand varies greatly; sometimes this doesn't even correspond to use rates.

Field conditions in our area show the traps have been catching quite a few western bean beetles (remember, we're growing non-GMO crops). Seed corn and popcorn have been treated for northern leaf blight and a few other fungi. The corn also took quite a beating in the July 1 storms.

For these reasons, I am leaning toward a fungicide and insecticide treatment on cornfields.

Meanwhile, brown spot has been found in soybeans. Japanese beetles are thicker this year than the past few. I'm unsure about treatment on soybeans. I will likely leave out hormones.

Soils have also been saturated from time to time, this may affect the amount of nitrogen fixed. Additional fertilizer is a consideration. About the only thing I've decided there is that since the beans were sprayed early, I will probably fly it on rather than track up the fields.

I will certainly do some strip trials this year. I already have a couple of trials out, and have plans for more. We also are hosting a plot for AgriGold Hybrids where an agronomist is evaluating foliar treatment on corn.

The opinions of Kyle Stackhouse are not necessarily those of Farm Futures or the Penton Farm Progress Group.

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