DES MOINES -- Choosing fields in prime condition is critical when planting corn after corn. Agronomists with Pioneer Hi-Bred International, Inc., say the most successful corn-after-corn producers begin with highly productive fields then manage those fields to minimize compaction, handle excessive residue and maintain soil fertility.

"Corn-after-corn production eliminates many key benefits of crop rotation," says Steve Butzen, Pioneer agronomy information manager. "The seedbed needs to be in top shape to handle the challenges associated with this system."

Start by choosing fields for corn-after-corn production that historically have high corn yields, good drainage and medium-textured soils with ample water-holding capacity.

When it comes time to plant, remember corn-after-corn fields present a more adverse environment for the corn seed and seedling.

"Watch soil conditions and the weather forecast more closely to select planting days that improve your chances for success," says Butzen. "Don't plant corn-after-corn fields too early - when soils are below 50 F and warmer weather is not in the forecast."

In addition, don't be in a rush to get into wet fields. Surface compaction, sidewall compaction and/or deep compaction can restrict root growth and limit water uptake and yield -- especially if drought conditions develop after planting.

Residue biggest challenge

A corn crop produces more than twice the amount of residue as a soybean crop. Excessive corn residue can result in cooler soil temperatures and higher soil moisture at planting.

To counter these problems, plan to manage corn residue effectively at planting. The goal is to clear residue from the row area.

Row cleaners, coulters or other residue management attachments on the planter can help create a more suitable environment in the seed zone for more rapid germination and emergence.

In addition, distribute residue evenly at harvest. Tillage in the fall can help build a good seedbed, but plan to have adequate labor and equipment if corn acres are increasing. Spring tillage operations often are delayed due to cooler and wetter conditions in corn after corn.
Maintain soil fertility

Soil fertility in corn-after-corn production should be based on thorough soil testing and local Extension recommendations. Soil tests are needed to determine soil pH and existing levels of phosphorous and potassium. Soil pH should be at 6.2 or above for growing corn.

Corn residue ties up more nitrogen than soybean residue as it decomposes in the soil, therefore growers should plan to apply about 50 additional pounds of nitrogen to corn after corn versus corn after soybean fields.

"In high residue fields, consider using 50 pounds of starter nitrogen to give plants a faster start," says Butzen. "In all fields, consider splitting nitrogen applications if possible. This can reduce nitrogen losses and helps ensure corn plants have adequate nitrogen throughout the season."

For more information about seedbed preparation in corn-after-corn fields, contact a local Pioneer sales professional. In addition to your local sales professional, Pioneer offers a national network of agronomists to answer questions associated with corn-after-corn production.

Pioneer Hi-Bred International, a subsidiary of DuPont, is the world's leading source of customized solutions for farmers, livestock producers and grain and oilseed processors. With headquarters in Des Moines, Pioneer provides access to advanced plant genetics, crop protection solutions and quality crop systems to customers in nearly 70 countries.

SOURCE: Pioneer Hi-Bred International news release.