Combine offers bird’s-eye view of field conditions

• While harvest marks the end of this season, it signals the transition to the next growing season and an opportunity to plan some changes for improved productivity.

The bird’s-eye view from the combine cab can give growers a better perspective for scouting crop health and evaluating field conditions.

The season-long interaction between equipment, nature and management comes full circle at harvest and brings in a lot of information to consider and evaluate.

 “Those hours on the combine give you an opportunity to pay close attention to field conditions while you have the time,” says Kelli Bassett, DuPont Pioneer field agronomist. “While harvest marks the end of this season, it signals the transition to the next growing season and an opportunity to plan some changes for improved productivity.”

Generally more productive soils produce healthier, robust stalks, bigger ears and higher yields. Less productive soils, such as areas with poor drainage, tend to produce spindly stalks along with smaller ears and reduced yields. Bassett has spent numerous hours evaluating fields with growers and has some suggestions about what to scout for from the combine cab.

Observe the consistency of ear size, stalk diameter, uniformity in plant size and emergence.

“Many fields were planted this year when conditions were not ideal — damp soils and cool temperatures followed by pounding rains,” Bassett says. “That’s led to a lot of unevenness among corn plants.”

As the combine passes through the field, take note of variations and consider probable causes. For instance, compaction from running equipment across wet soils or skips during nitrogen (N) or fertilizer applications.

Watch for stalks that are elbowing, lodging or kinked. Weakened stalks are signs of poor soil fertility, low N, stalk rot diseases or hybrid weakness.

“Often stalk damage is not severe enough to notice until you are harvesting,” Bassett says. “With the observations and yield data you’ve documented during harvest, you can better discuss hybrid selection with your Pioneer sales representative.”

Take a close look at variations in yield in isolated areas of the field. Check low-lying areas to determine if there is a drainage issue that needs to be resolved.

 “This season in particular, reduced yield can often be related to N loss,” Bassett says. “N management is key to yields and it’s important to understand how N, soil type and drainage interact.”

Keep an eye out for insects to build an understanding of future control needs. Corn rootworm may affect yield and standability — pockets of lodged stalks may indicate damage from root feeding.  

“If it’s late in the season and you see corn rootworm beetles flying around, that’s a sign that there was pressure in the field from that insect,” Bassett says.

Corn borer populations were noticeable this summer and insect damage may occur — look for corn plants with the tops broken out or ears that have fallen to the ground.

“Corn borer protection traits, such as Herculex I insect protection, provide an excellent risk management tool against above-ground pests,” Bassett says.

Note the location of weed escapes, where water stood in the field, where the planter skipped and other inconsistencies to help determine next year’s management strategy.

“From the combine, you can see crop inconsistencies that might not be as visible from the ground,” Bassett says. “The perspective from the cab, coupled with data from a yield monitor, allows you to clearly see productivity patterns.” 

When riding with growers, Bassett frequently uses the Pioneer Field360 Notes app to record field observations on a tablet. “I encourage growers to get the app on their tablet,” she says. “It’s a pretty slick application for scouting and note taking on the go.”       

After harvest is a good time to evaluate your notes and data from your yield monitor using Pioneer Field360 Select software. The interactive field maps provided by the software show field boundaries layered with your soil types and harvest maps to set the stage for 2014 planning.

The Pioneer Field360 Select software runs on any Web-accessible electronic device and is compatible with data cards from most planting and harvest monitor systems.

See your Pioneer sales professional for more information about Pioneer brand products and Pioneer Field360 services or go to pioneer.com.

 

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