What to Scout in Corn Now

Although planting might seem as if it were ages ago, its effects can show up now. While scouting corn in addition to checking ear size and kernel count, take a look at stand, roots and stalks, and re-examine your ears to determine what went right—or wrong—earlier this year.

“Loss of 1,000 plants per acre is a 5- to 7-bu. loss,” says Brad Beutke of CropTech and presenter at the 2016 Farm Journal Corn College in Albert Lea, Minn. Examine where grain loss came from to limit financial losses next year.


Uniform stand establishment is a critical building block to high yields. When plants get behind or your planter leaves skips, doubles or misplaced seed in the field, yield is lost nearly immediately.

It’s typically pretty easy to tell when a plant gets behind. Look for skinny stalks and small or underdeveloped ears. Since it fell behind early, it essentially became a weed and had to fight with its neighbors for sunlight, water and nutrients. Big plants usually win that fight, which means plants with delayed emergence don’t pay out.

One of the easiest ways to have uneven emergence is uneven planting depth. When a plant is deeper or shallower than surrounding plants, it’ll likely be delayed because it has to work harder to break through the surface. Alternately, the seed is so close to the surface it can’t take absorb water to germinate.

Uneven planting depth isn’t the only hazard of planting. Skips, doubles and misplaced seed can decimate yields, too. You can identify whether a true skip, a double or a misplaced seed has occurred by heeding several rules of thumb:

  • Skips can be identified by a missing plant with even plant spacing on either side.
  • Doubles show two plants close together with even plant spacing on either side.
  • Misplaced seed results in uneven spacing, often a result of a delayed seed drop.

“We see a lot less doubles than we used to because of metering technology,” says Farm Journal Associate Field Agronomist Missy Bauer. “In a double, one won’t produce a harvestable ear.”

You’re more likely to see misplaced seed than a double or skip. “Planting speed is a big culprit of misplaced seed,” Bauer adds. “Losses from planter speed show up in ear size.”

If you’re going too fast, seeds can bounce or get caught up in seed tubes, delaying seed drop. That drops a seed where it doesn’t belong, misplacing seed and throwing off your picket-fence stand.


Since planting depth can play a large…

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