Late Summer Can Lead to Better Harvest Decisions

Steve Resized

Steve Sick, Latham Product Manager

Taking field notes on what you observe in late August and early September can provide valuable information as you move into harvest, as well as confirm or reprioritize agronomic goals for next year.

Notes I take this time of year generally answer these questions:

  • What diseases are the most prevalent?
  • Which areas of the field exhibit poor growth or yield potential?
  • Should I conduct a pre-harvest yield estimate?

Late-Season Scouting Suggestions

Evaluate areas of poor crop growth and potential yield. There can be multiple reasons why a crop didn’t grow well in portions of a field or yield estimates are low in some spots.

To help determine if soil fertility and health is the cause, try these steps:

  • Mark on a map or GPS reference the location, so you can take directed soil samples after harvest.
  • Pull paired samples. Take one composite soil sample in the poor growth area and then take another composite sample in an area of good growth nearby in the same field. (Soil sample bags are available from many sources and easily available through your local university or co-op.)
  • Use yield maps. These are another great data layer to compare and contrast what you observed during scouting in late August.

Think About Pest Management While Scouting

Observe the severity and distribution of diseases, insects, and weeds in a field to help make future adjustments to pest management plans.

For example, Goss’s Wilt and bacterial leaf streak are two bacterial diseases found this year in cornfields with no previous history. Tar spot is also a new disease that carries over in residue the following year. Hybrid selection for improved tolerance or resistance to these bacterial diseases maybe something to talk about with your seed dealer this fall.

Some hail and wind-damaged fields now have a late-season weed flush in portion that might warrant a more aggressive herbicide program next year.

Scouting Now Can Help Predict Yield Potential

The most compelling reason to scout fields in late summer is to estimate yield potential. There are differing techniques on estimating corn yield in terms of how to sample and the number of ears to pull. I suggest using information from satellite or drone images to direct sampling across the variability that exists in all fields.

Another word of caution is with the seed size factor used to calculate kernels/bushel with the extremely dry grain fill period we have experienced in parts of Latham Country. For dry areas, that number may need to be much larger than normal.

Scouting late in the growing season is almost always hot, itchy, sweaty, wet and uncomfortable! However, the insights gained with field observations — when paired with knowledge of the growing season — can help tweak management decisions going forward. This will ultimately lead to more productive growing seasons in the future.

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