You must provide numerous resources and management to optimize the opportunity for corn plants to produce high yields.  Of course, favorable weather plays a huge role as well. This article describes key areas where we can improve corn yield potential. The MSU Corn Verification Program has played a major role identifying many of these factors, and used to demonstrate the value of implementing new practices and strategies to improve Mississippi corn productivity and most importantly, increase profitability.

1. Completely control ryegrass prior to corn emergence. Emerged ryegrass is extremely competitive with young corn, and our ryegrass populations, which are often resistant to both glyphosate and ALS herbicides, cannot be reliably controlled after corn plants emerge. Therefore, MSU scientists have developed a specific management plan for controlling ryegrass competition in Mississippi’s corn production systems.  The system includes the use of a fall-applied residual herbicide designed to limit the establishment of resistant ryegrass, followed by spring-applied contact herbicides with different modes of action to control weeds before corn emergence.

2. Don’t underestimate the value of crop rotation, and corn on corn is not a rotation system! We can make a strong case that crop rotation may enhance crop yields more than any other management practice within the scope of normal input levels. In fact, over 68% of the winners in the National Corn Growers Association Yield Contest employ crop rotation. Crop rotation may be even more important in our region, particularly for corn growers. This is because crop rotation improves soil properties and greatly reduces risk associated with numerous weed, disease, insect and other pest problems.

3. Plant only when soil conditions are positive for rapid emergence and development. Our primary seedling limitations are wet soils and cool soil temperature. Wet soil promotes compaction while planting, particularly around the seed furrow, which will restrict root development. Soil temperature regulates germination rate, so cool temperatures can greatly hinder stand success and plant growth uniformity, both of which are paramount to high corn productivity.  We suggest soil temperature at a 2-inch soil depth be at least 55 degrees F and/or 50 degrees F at a 6-inch soil depth.


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4. Operate your planter with the skill of a surgeon. Slow down and be diligent to optimize efficiency.  MSU research shows plant spacing uniformity and corn grain yield improve as planter ground speed slows. In fact, corn yield improved 4.3 bu./a. for each mph slower speed less than 6 to 3mph. Retrofitting a John Deere planter with a Precision Planting e-Set metering system also increased corn yields an average of nearly 6 bu./a. and improved crop response to increasing ground speed by 17%. Furthermore, uniform seedling emergence is critically important. Our research shows late emerging plants lose 23 bu./a. for each day of delayed emergence.

5. Why not use starter fertilizer? Starter fertilizers are an integral part of most high-yield producers’ programs, despite the fact that they already have exceptional soil fertility levels.  This is because corn often responds very well to placing phosphorus, which is an immobile nutrient, in the root zone. This enhances plant uptake when roots are small, increasing early vigor and maturity. Likewise, utilization of Zinc (another immobile nutrient) in starter fertilizer may enhance crop response for the same reason.  Furthermore, new MSU research shows in-furrow placement of Capture LFR insecticide may further enhance crop response to an in-furrow starter system, as well as greatly enhance efficacy on Sugarcane beetles.