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GET READY: Technologies today make it easy to not plan ahead to meet each field’s specific cropping needs. While technology can do a lot for us, it’s still better to have a good plan for each field.

Plant with a plan this spring

Cropping Systems: Planning field by field and putting it in writing avoids costly mistakes.

Crop planning is an activity that can be completed in the winter. The process of writing down all your plans for each field can help reduce potential mistakes or confusion during busy spring months. Think through each input and activity for each field. This kind of written plan will force you to double-check things like herbicide selection and placement of hybrids and varieties.

The intent of this plan is to get all the info recorded for each field on one piece of paper. Consider an electronic copy that can be shared on a smartphone or a tablet. It is important to have a copy of this in the hands of each family member and employee, or in each tractor or pickup.

Some items to consider for each field plan:

Field name and legal description. You could include GPS coordinates of field entrances. Include FSA field acres and the FSA number. List the previous crop.

Fertilizer or manure applied. For both fall and spring, include the amount applied and the analysis. Include nitrogen rates for cornfields, and fall tillage and intended spring tillage for all fields.

Hybrids and varieties. Include maturity, traits, soybean cyst nematode (SCN) resistance, etc. What’s your intended planting rate; plant population you are shooting for? Also, list planned preplant and postemergence herbicides, insecticides, fungicides and any planned restricted-use pesticide applications.

Field map. A Farm Service Agency map for each field would be handy.

More actions to fine-tune plan
The following are additional considerations for your field plan:

• Consider placement of varieties. Did you get a variety resistant to SCN or tolerant to sudden death syndrome (SDS) for fields adjacent to areas that had SDS last year? It is difficult to predict SDS occurrence, but starting with SCN-SDS varieties will help.

• Record your use of restricted-use products. Products like atrazine, atrazine package mixes, Balance Flexx, Corvus, Aztec, Fortress and others are restricted-use. A copy of ISU publication ICM-1 “Integrated Crop Management and Pesticide Application” will be useful for keeping records of restricted-use products.

• Double check your nitrogen rates. Use the Corn Nitrogen Rate Calculator.

• Soil-test for SCN. This can still be accomplished in the spring.

New farms (new to your operation) are notorious for soil testing low in fertility. Make plans to soil-test for phosphorus, potassium and lime if you didn’t get fields soil-tested last fall. Apply fertilizer if soil test levels indicate a need especially if soil tests are very low or low.

Consider your use of corn rootworm insecticides or traits on corn that follows soybeans. There isn’t a reliable way to predict rootworm damage when corn follows beans. The decision to protect corn against rootworms when corn follows soybeans likely depends on your tolerance of corn rootworm damage and corn lodging at harvest. If lodged corn is something that can’t be tolerated, consider the use of rootworm insecticide or corn rootworm traits.

Kassel is the ISU Extension field agronomist based at Spencer in northwest Iowa. Contact him at kassel@iastate.edu.

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