It's decision time — making the most of June-planted corn and soys

It’s decision time for many Ontario farmers. As wet, cool weather maintains its grip on the province, do you listen to the markets and plant corn, or is it too late? How many heat units should you drop if you’re sticking with the king? Is it better to plant soybeans? How do you get your planter over wet fields? When should you apply nitrogen and how much?

RealAg Radio host Shaun Haney and Agromart agronomy lead Steph Kowalski tackled all these questions on the show this week.

As the calendar turns to June, there’s still strong yield potential in corn, but some hybrid switching will be required. Kowalski notes that many growers now plant longer-season hybrids than the adapted heat unit range for their area. For example, growers in 2900 CHU areas routinely grow 3000 CHU hybrids now to tap into higher yield potential. “This year we need to stick with varieties that are adapted for our areas and even shorter,” says Kowalski.

Planting a “flex” hybrid could also prove advantageous this year, notes Kowalski. These hybrids have the potential to flex and expand yield if strong growing conditions prevail as the season progresses. On June 1, she believes a 2900 CHU area should be planting a 2700 hybrid and hoping to flex.

Pride agronomist Aaron Stevanus explains how a flex hybrid works on this episode of Corn School.

“I would rather go lower on my corn heat units and have the corn flex if we get a good summer,” says Kowalski. That’s better than “pushing your heat units and hoping we don’t get an early frost — it’s all about managing risk,” she adds. (Story continues after the interview.)

When it comes to soybeans, the oilseed is traditionally easier to plant in tough conditions. It’s easier to “mud in” soybeans because they’re seeded shallower and there’s less concern about creating sidewall compaction, as is often seen in corn when targeting a two-inch depth.

Check out June planting tips with OMAFRA’s Horst Bohner on Soybean School.

Given the challenging conditions, Kowalski believes 2019 may very well be the year that growers see maximum benefit from all that new technology they have on their planters. “Things like automated downforce and adjusting downforce on the go — I think that will pay dividends this year on the planter by backing off that down pressure in the wet areas,” she says. “We don’t need to be sending that row unit to China. Just skirt across the wet areas, get the seed in the ground at an inch and a half to two inches, and keep going.”

Kowalski also says growers have great flexibility when it comes to fertility programs and that’s important to remember when operating in tight planting windows. She emphasizes the importance of getting starter fertilizer down with seed. But when it comes to nitrogen, she notes that growers have tremendous flexibility to apply nitrogen with Y drops and high-clearance spinner spreaders that give them many opportunities to get nitrogen down efficiently all season long.

“That might be the difference in getting that extra farm planted in tight planting windows,” says Kowalski.

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