Unexpected Yield Robbers of 2020, Looking to 2021

Unexpected Yield Robbers of 2020, Looking to 2021

While growers tend to expect the unexpected from each growing season, there are still lessons to be learned from each year that can be applied to future crops. Kevin Gale and Steven Schany, both AgriGold Regional Agronomists, have given thought to the biggest yield robbers of 2020 and how growers can address these issues in the next growing season.

“In the western corn belt, 2020 will forever be known as the year of extremes and was probably as opposite of 2019 as we could get,” says Schany. “Many of the issues we experienced turned out to be only a catalyst for a larger problem down the road.”

These issues across the corn belt included uneven emergence, reduced stand, soil compaction, poor root development, disease and insect pressure, low fertility levels in drought areas, and nitrogen deficiency. Uneven emergence due to variable planting depth and soil temps, as well as soil compaction caused from anxious farmers wanting to avoid a 2019 spring, led to poor root development.

Poor root development led to major problems. Hybrids with poor root development were affected the most by heavy corn rootworm feeding and high wind events that caused lodging. In areas with high heat and moisture stress that caused tip back and kernel loss, the roots caused more stress during grain fill. Gale notes that drought will have a major impact on lighter soils and may impact yield 10 to 40 percent in areas that died prematurely. Stalk quality will be a concern in these areas once harvest begins.

Often, these hidden penalties are forgotten about until the combines start to roll and results are taken from the yield monitors. Not establishing a uniform stand in 2020 and not getting plants off to a great start has caused many of the aforementioned issues.

Looking Forward
Some of this year’s yield robbers are habitual problems that can be corrected with patience and increased management, while others are not as easily controlled (i.e. the weather). Farmers can still mitigate their risk through hybrid placement.

“Field GX is a game changer for a grower to truly understand the diversity of AgriGold products and how to tailor a management strategy to unlock the true potential of each hybrid they plant,” said Schany.

Both agronomists recommend predictive planning tools like Advantage Acre and WeatherTrends360 in order to understand the upcoming forecast trends and challenges. Gale says the best way to reduce risk from these yield limiting factors is to plant in front of a warming trend without any heavy rain or cold temps forecasted for several days after planting, as well as splitting nitrogen applications and utilizing fungicides to slow development of disease and enhance late season grain fill and overall yield potential.

Final advice from Gale:
“Crop insurance is a risk management tool, especially with extreme weather events in recent years. Talk to your Key Account Specialist and agronomist to select a portfolio of products that fit your operation. Continue to scout fields all season long to see what is working as well as what areas need improvement to grow a successful crop.”

Final statement from Schany:
“I can guarantee one thing about next year; it will be different. Control the controllable and the rest will work itself out in the long run. Seed selection is within our control, so find the right fit for your fields! We often let a hybrid’s performance data tell us what we should plant instead of letting the field tell us what it needs.”