Create “Nutrient-Rich Spa” All Season Long

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We all know that it takes heat units to get crops out of the ground, plus adequate soil moisture and nutrients to keep them healthy all season long. There are steps you can take to help ensure your plants get their critical needs met during the early developmental stages.

Walking your fields at emergence is important for so many reasons. With adequate soil moisture, it takes between 90 and 100 heat units for corn and alfalfa to emerge and spike. We usually see plants emerge about one week after planting.

Note which seed product numbers emerge faster. Keep in mind that faster emergence tends to reduce potential seedling damage which can increase plant mortality. Fast emergence is Phase One of getting best yields.

Walk your fields and look for early signs of nitrogen and sulfur deficiency. It’s critical to have plenty of nitrogen available in the early development stages to maintain top yield potential.

Corn needs to be in a “nutrient-rich spa” all season long to get the best out of each plant. Although you may have applied plenty of nitrogen, it can get tied up in the previous crop’s decaying residue. Planting into a high residue situation has a high carbon to nitrogen (C:N) ratio.

The C:N is the ratio of the mass of carbon to the mass of nitrogen in a substance. For example, a C:N of 10:1 means there are 10 units of carbon for each unit of nitrogen in that substance. Since the C:N ratio of everything in and on the soil can significantly affect crop residue decomposition — particularly residue cover on the soil and crop nutrient cycling (predominantly nitrogen) — it is important to understand these ratios.

Early tissue and soil tests can help discover any nitrogen shortcomings. To learn more about C:N Ratios in Cropping Systems, visit the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service website here.