You have a birds-eye view of the unharvested field from the combine cab. Especially if you use auto-steer, that gives you a chance to take notes, either in your head, on a computer screen, in a notebook, or all three.
What should you look for? Consultants suggest looking for the obvious. Where is corn down? Why is it down? Stop long enough to see if it's stalk rot. Or maybe if you have non-GMO corn, it might be corn borer damage. Dropped ears on the ground could mean that the second brood of corn borers bored into the ear shank and caused it to drop the ear.
Every full ear lying on the ground in a distance of 175 feet is a bushel per acre that you won't harvest, according to the Purdue University Corn & Soybean Field Guide.
You can also watch for weeds as you combine. If you're in corn, hopefully there are no weeds ticking out the top. If there are, do you have resistant giant ragweed? Is tall waterhemp resistant? Make sure you don't see anything that looks like Palmer amaranth. By now everyone should have a good idea of what it looks like. It's a pigweed-like plant with a super long seedhead full of thousands of seeds.
Running just one of those through the combine could start a sizable patch of Palmer amaranth, and it won't take long for it to take hold.
Corn Illustrated 10/14: Corn Yield and Test Weight May Not Be So Related
You might also note where corn is better and where it isn't as good. The yield monitor can help in this regard. If you're mapping you will have a record to look back on later, assuming you calibrated the yield monitor so the maps are accurate. Recalibrate when moisture content changes considerably or when you change hybrids.
If yield varies, is it all because the soil changed? Or is there something else going on?
You should also get a handle for skips and doubles, especially skips. If you see too many, it may mean you need to spend some time in the shop this winter or in very early spring going through your planter.
Too many skips and doubles means you may be losing yield that you could pick back up next year by getting the planter in top working condition.
Always watch for broken tile. Make sure you find tile holes before they find you!
For more corn news, corn crop scouting information and corn diseases to watch for, follow Tom Bechman's column, Corn Illustrated Weekly, published every Tuesday.