“If you want a picket-fence stand, it’ll require the correct planting speed, planting depth and agronomic practices. You have one chance to get it right.”

Dowdy’s planter is equipped with down-pressure pneumatic bags so he can increase the down-pressure whenever he gets into hard, cloddy soil.

“If you’re planting 2 inches deep, make sure your 2 by 2 application is 2 inches to the left or right of that seed and 2 inches below seed placement. If you’re planting 2 inches deep, you should be putting fertilizer at 4 inches deep. Make sure your system can do that. I don’t have to depend on rainfall or the pivot to put fertilizer where it needs to be.”

Seed plates should match your seed size, he says. “If you change seed size or hybrids, make the proper calibration.”

 His planting speed is 4 miles per hour or less, and he sprays Capture in-furrow as another measure of insurance.

Dowdy plants cover crops for several reasons.

 “No. 1 is that if there are any residual nutrients in the soil, I want the cover crops to take them up and re-release them to the next crop. Also, it promotes and helps root growth.

“If I do deep tillage before planting the cover crop and I’ve got prolific root penetration in the soil, that cover crop has helped. Thirdly, cover crops help with weed control.”

He uses a Great Plains Turbo Max behind his tractor to minimize the litter.

“You cannot find any of that 372-bushel corn litter/fodder in my field. Microbial activity is breaking it down, and it’s eliminating it so that I don’t have to pay a carbon penalty in the spring.

“Part of the nitrogen is being used to break down litter, and you want that to happen in the fall rather than in the spring. Also, disease will come from litter.”

It’s also important, says Dowdy, to calibrate your center pivots, no matter their age.

“Just because you’ve bought a new pivot doesn’t mean it’s accurate. I put in a new pivot in February on new ground where we had pine trees, and it scored a 65.

“Humans have to put in those nozzles. If the installer of the nozzles is having a bad day or doesn’t care, you’ll pay the penalty. If you’re not putting out water uniformly, then you’re not putting out fertilizer or chemicals uniformly.”

He begins shelling corn at 25-percent moisture in order to fulfill contracts and to timely plant a double-crop. Last year he planted Pioneer 95Y70 soybeans on Aug. 1-4 and yielded 45 bushels per acre behind the corn.

Plant health is tremendously important throughout the growing season. “If your fields are not green when you begin to harvest, something is wrong. Disease, plant health or something else is causing that plant to die before it reaches black layer or physiological maturity.

“I don’t want the plant cannibalizing itself because of a lack of nutrients nor do I want the plant to die prematurely due to disease. Headline and Headline Amp have played a pivotal role in mitigating disease effects in my fields.”

Dowdy also believes in walking your own fields, even if you do have a crop consultant.

“When was the last time you pulled a tissue or soil sample yourself? Walk along with your crop consultant. And if your crop consultant says that you have a problem that the plant will grow out of, fire him or her, because the money you’re paying them is costing you more in yields.”

Walk your fields at least once each week to determine plant stand, weed types and methods of control, moisture availability, irrigation uniformity, insects and their control, diseases and their control, nutrient deficiencies, ear count and harvest loss, he recommends. 

Continue to be a student of corn production, says Dowdy, and glean everything you can from each year. “Take copious notes from year to year and ‘pay your knowledge forward’ by helping others increase their yields.  It’s a good feeling and very rewarding.”

phollis@farmpress.com