FILER — Hot, smoky days are pushing southern Idaho’s corn crop to maturity faster than some growers had expected.

Smoke holds the heat in, depriving the plant of a chance to rest, Dave Heimkes explained to growers during a field day held at Filer. Hot weather is synonymous with corn growth but corn plants don’t grow well once temperatures exceed 86 degrees. Heimkes is an agronomist with Dekalb.

The real question growers should ask is not how high the daytime temperatures are but how many hours temperatures fall below 86 degrees overnight. Smoky conditions tend to keep daytime temperatures slightly lower but nighttime temperatures higher.

Several growers at the field day had planned to start cutting silage in mid-September but were pushing harvest forward several days as the lower leaves are rapidly drying out. Others had already starting cutting.

“Green is weight,” Heimkes reminded them.

According to the National Agricultural Statistics Service, 3 percent of Idaho’s corn silage crop was harvested by Sept. 5, behind last year’s pace of 8 percent and the five-year average of 13 percent. Eighty-three percent of the crop was rated good-to-excellent.

Casey Mikus, district sales representative for Dekalb, was glad to hear growers were scouting fields. If kernels are fully dented, it’s time to start cutting, she said.

Growers visited stations at the Filer research farm to learn about new hybrids, planting depth, plant populations and weed control.

“You don’t want to make mistakes on your farm,” Heimkes said. “Let us make the mistakes here.”

Some of those “mistakes’ are decisions to intentionally push plant populations beyond what a grower would do to see when a hybrid will fail. Other mistakes were unintentional but provided learning opportunities such as the two rows that got skipped when the rest of the field was sprayed.

Heimkes is a strong proponent of early weed control. He wants to see clean fields before V4 (the fourth leaf stage). By not treating those two rows until V8 and not hoeing the weeds out, growers were able to see a clear yield difference compared to the early weed control.

Most of the mistakes Heimkes sees in grower fields begin with planting depth or planting speed. He recommends not planting corn any less than 1.5 inches deep and adds that 2 inches provides a nice even emergence.

The second most common error involves irrigation timing. By the eighth leaf stage, the plant is beginning to determine how many rows around the cob there will be and how long the cob will be. Making sure the plants are well-watered at this growth stage is critical.

Starting two weeks before tasseling and lasting until two weeks after, the corn crop is using 0.4 inches of water each day. Growers have to plan ahead to ensure the soil profile is filled before that high water usage period begins.

“There are no irrigation systems that can put on that much water and there are no roots that can take it up,” he said. If a grower gets behind, there is no way to catch up.

“Make sure you get the basics right,” Heimkes said.

Some growers are turning to technology to help them get those basics right. Jeff Hamlin, director of learning and development with Climate Corp, was at the field day to talk about a new service that collects and coordinates data from monitors on planters, sprayers and combines.

Using a universal translator that can be easily moved from one machine to another, data is collected and then put into a form growers can use to make decisions. Many growers get data from yield monitors on their combines but don’t have a useful way of coordinating that data with what they get from their planters or sprayers.

“This is about making data work for you instead of sitting on your desk in a cup,” Hamlin said. He was referring to thumb drives of data that are often sitting in those cups or tractor cabs. “You plant and spray and harvest like always and at the end of the year we’ll give you numerical data from your farm that you can use to make decisions.”

While many growers on the tour were interested in the technology, cost and adaptability were issues. The device can be used on several brands of equipment, but primarily on equipment newer than 2009. Cost of the service was around $1,000 for the 2017 crop year but will increase by $250 for 2018.

“You don’t want to make mistakes on your farm. Let us make the mistakes here.” Dave Heimkes, Dekalb agronomist
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