What did you learn this year?
This is a question that I get every fall from one of my seed dealers. He is always very interested in what we can do differently to improve for next year from a seed selection standpoint, and sometimes, in general field management. As the weather has shown us this year, we can do everything right, but in the end, Mother Nature has the final say.
It's no surprise that growers across the corn belt have had a lot of stories to tell this year. Many have had places where there were no ears, to areas that yielded very well, all things considered. So what do you do with that data? Do you use the information you collected this year for management decisions in future years? In many cases the answer is simple: it depends.
In many cases the answer will depend on what extent the drought impacted your crop. Did the crop grow to a normal plant height, and put on a normal ear? A small ear? Did the plant only get waist high and abort any further growth? Your local agronomists will be the ones that assist in how to fertilize a field following a year like you had. If you harvested a crop, you probably have areas of the field that showed more variability than other years. Some fields may show higher high yielding areas due to the extra sunlight, and in other areas of the field, lower lows due to the lack of moisture.
Like many of you reading this, on our farm, I’m trying to step back and look at it from a perspective that droughts happens less often than a ‘average’ year, so I shouldn’t go overboard with changes that will adversely affect yields in a more typical year. However, I have already made comparisons to previous years data to see if the lower yielding areas from years past correspond to this year’s data. And, I have seen relationships that tell me now that I probably had a water or a root deficiency in previous years, just like I did this year. So I’m answering questions that I had from years past now. This year’s data will also assist me when I set up strip trials in the field going forward, so I can make sure that the trials are placed on an even playing field.