Corn Plants Need Well-Balanced Diets, Too

Dr. Fred Below, plant physiologist and professor with the University of Illinois at Champagne-Urbana

Eating healthy is always a favorite topic around the New Year when people make resolutions, but have you ever considered the importance of providing a well-balanced diet for your corn crop? After all, corn plants are living, breathing organisms! They have needs, too.

Dr. Fred Below, plant physiologist and professor with the University of Illinois at Champagne-Urbana, says 50% of corn yield is determined by weather and nitrogen. We can all agree that weather greatly affects nitrogen usage and efficiency. While no one can control Mother Nature, Dr. Below says farmers can manage nitrogen to have as much impact on yield as weather.

Nitrogen is a mobile nutrient, so the timing of fertilizer application is critical to meet a plant’s needs. The plant’s biggest need for fertilizer is between V12-R1. With this in mind, Dr. Below asks why so many farmers are applying nitrogen seven months before the plant needs it. Consider this analogy:

You want to throw a party during the third week of June 2012. However, canned beverages can be purchased cheaper in early November 2011. You stock up on drinks and store them, on the edge of your field, near the road for seven months. Will those beverages still be located in the same spot on June 22, a hot, dry day when you’re especially thirsty and want to drink 7 cans?

Instead of providing a feast or famine situation for a corn plant, Dr. Below says farmers can benefit from controlling the release of fertilizer and by managing micronutrients. During a presentation to a group of farmers and Seed-2-Soil® clients in Clear Lake last Thursday, he showed how taking a system approach that combines seed technology with fertilizer technology can significantly – and consistently – improve corn yields.

Have you set a goal of consistently raising 250- or 300-bushel corn? Nitrogen management is key, but it’s not the only factor influencing yield. Click here to see Dr. Below’s 7 Wonders of the Corn World, which are the seven factors that have the most influence on yield.