Walk Fields for a Better Bottomline

The 55 mile-per-hour drive-by is one of the most common ways farmers check how crops are doing, but there are some things you just can’t see from the pickup. It really can pay to walk through fields.

Call your Latham® Dealer and ask him or her to walk through your Latham products. That way you can both monitor how the products are doing. You can note whether you need to adjust which products are planted on each field next year.

Crop Health and Uniformity

Corn: Uniform stand and growth stage are more important than seeing dark green seedlings. There is a direct relationship between the amount of productive leaf area and yield. How healthy are the plants in general? How many leaves does a plant have compared to its neighboring plants? Leaves are the factory that produces the ear, so you want leaves to stay green and unimpeded by insects or diseases, which decrease the leaves production. Take stand counts and compare those counts to the counts you get when you walk fields in August for yield estimates.

Soybeans: Soybean yield is all about the August rains and potential pods. What is there to see now? The row should be closed by R1 (beginning flower) or as close to it as possible. The second most important thing to evaluate in June is how many nodes it has before R1. Our soybeans are all indeterminate, which means they keep putting on more nodes after R1. Your goal is for soybeans to produce as many nodes as possible, so you get as many pods as possible. Early planted soybeans should show more nodes than fields planted later.

Early Season Stressors

Corn: Be sure to bring a shovel. Dig some plants up and evaluate whether the nodal root system is developing well, or whether it has hit any compaction or shows signs of insect feeding. By this time, Corn Rootworm larvae are getting started. Although you won’t see the full extent of their damage, which is closer to pollination, this is still a great time to compare different corn traits and potentially in-furrow insecticide treatment. If your roots aren’t healthy, the plant won’t yield to its full potential regardless how green it looks on top. Note foliar diseases like Anthracnose or insect damage because you will want to follow up on those areas closer to pollination.

Soybeans: The shovel should go into the soybean field, too. Dig some plants and evaluate what the roots look like. Brush off the soil, and use your knife to split some of the nodules. You should see some that are red (producing nitrogen) and some that are green (getting ready to produce nitrogen). The lateral roots off the main taproot should reach across 30-inch rows by now. Although they are very small, Soybean Cyst Nematodes should be a focus at this point in the season. They are often confused with nutrient deficiencies, so take a deeper look. Wash some roots or send some samples to your land grant university because SCN can rob 20% of your yield without you even knowing it. Planting the right genetics protects yield.

Remember: Green above ground and white below ground or inside the stem means the plant is healthy. Use the Data Forward App or another tool to record specific areas of a field, so you can come back to those spots later in the season and again the following year. Noting trends from season to season will guide you into better management. Field-by-field planning leads to higher profits.