The Agronomists, Ep 22: Ken Currah and Greg Stewart on getting corn off to the right start


Monday really is all things agronomy here at RealAgriculture! Thanks for coming along for the ride.

On tonight’s primetime episode of The Agronomists, host Lyndsey Smith is joined by guests Ken Currah of BASF, and Greg Stewart of Maizex Seeds. The trio tackle many of the key issues that are required to get the corn crop off to a great start.

Catch a new episode of The Agronomists every Monday night at 8 pm E!



  • Outdoor Farm Show vibes on tonight’s show! (Here’s to hoping we can have those soon again).
  • We know the Prairies are dry, but guess what: it’s dry everywhere. Ontario, too.

CLIP 1: Corn School: Avoid that cold drink of water at planting

  • Looking at the weather is crucial.
  • We think back to the spring of 2019 in Ontario.
  • This year may be dry, but at least it’s warm. Corn likes the warmth.
  • We’ve still got time to be patient. Should we be, or should we let the weather say roll on?
  • Nice yields with an early start…you only get one chance to do it right. The message is still yes, we should have a nice window coming up here, but we don’t need to get panicked, yet.
  • Is the soil “fit”? You have to evaluate the next 24-48 hours of weather.
  • Cold is one thing. Cold and a wet period is really what we have to avoid.
  • Imbibitional chilling. The corn will corkscrew if it gets that cold drink.
  • High 40s for soil temp is ok… as long as we are in a warming trend (because Ken talks in F for some reason)
  • Nighttime temp below 3 degrees C is when we start getting worried — if there’s rain in the forecast.
  • Average soil temperature of the day is at 11am — so you really need to pay attention when you are taking the soil temperature, too.

CLIP 2: Plant corn deeper for even emergence and higher yields

  • Flag test
  • Uniform emergence is KEY
  • Is deeper better for emergence? The mistakes usually occur when its seeded shallow, rather than deep.
  • We don’t care about how fast the corn comes up. We care about the emergence between first plant up and last plant up.
  • Going deeper there, often generates higher stances and yields.
  • Don’t be afraid to go a little deeper to chase the moisture.
  • Do corn heat units start the day the seed hits the ground? You won’t surrender many heat units when you plant deep. Uniform stand versus a noisy stand will make up so much more yield than you’d loose in heat units.
  • Not a wise approach to plant silage.
  • Who cares if you are up a day or two later than the neighbours. It’s the stand that will really count.
  • CHU rating is really more about adaptability to your growing region, rather than being a clock.
  • Planter set up is of course important, too. We can’t forget about that. Test. Adjust. Make sure you know what’s happening in your field. That in itself is a whole long conversation. (But while we’re here: down pressure, people. Make sure it’s right.) Check out a previous episode of The Agronomists on planter setup, here.
  • Warm germ and cold germ are both good sources of information. Your seed rep should know that.

CLIP 3: Corn School: Coping with sidewall compaction and emergence challenges

  • What we do the fall before can really be crucial to having a much better start to the following growing year.
  • Proper closing wheel setup
  • Getting your crop off to a great start should not stop at emergence
  • Did I pinch some residue into the row? This is a question you should be asking.
  • Trench closure — you might get emergence that looks ok, but with poor trench closure, it’s going to hamper that crop for the next few weeks.
  • You think you are going to remember a lot of things…but chances are, you won’t. Keeping records will help, especially when those years start to meld together.
  • Be sure not to delay weed control. You can take a lot of yield out of your pocket by waiting it out.
  • Do we have enough nitrate in the row zone? It’s critical.
  • If you are putting down modest amounts of nitrogen upfront, you should really be looking at whether you have enough nitrate concentration to meet the early season requirements.
  • Why put it down at tassel time if you’ve missed it at planting time?!
  • We could do an entire show on nitrogen management on corn…we can never get them all done!
  • Tissue tests are a tool, but they only show you a window of time.

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