Combine Provides Bird's-Eye View Of Field Conditions

Combine Provides Bird's-Eye View Of Field Conditions

Here's what to watch for during harvest, as you navigate your combine through the fields.

The bird's-eye view from the combine cab this fall 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, a DuPont Pioneer field agronomist. "While harvest marks the end of this growing season, it signals the transition to the next growing season and an opportunity to plan some changes for improved productivity."

CHECK CORN FOR STALK ROT: Due to delayed planting, soil compaction, nutrient deficiencies and drought stress, variability in corn yield and moisture content of the grain is wide ranging from field to field and also within fields this year. As fall progresses, cornfields suspected of stalk rot should be watched closely, monitored for stalk quality and prioritized for harvest.

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.

Some suggestions about what to watch and scout for from the combine cab

Plant Health: 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 notes. "That has 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.

Stalk Strength: 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."

Yield Consistency: 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.~~~PAGE_BREAK_HERE~~~

"This growing season in particular, reduced yield can often be related to nitrogen loss," Bassett says. "Nitrogen management is key to yields and it's important to understand how N, soil type and drainage interact."

Insect Damage: Keep an eye out for insects during the growing season 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 growing 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 aboveground pests," Bassett says.

Field Conditions: 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 them to get the app on their tablet. It's a pretty slick application for scouting and note taking on the go," she says.     

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 products and Pioneer Field360 services or visit the Pioneer website.

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