The 2017 Growing Season

Apologies for not posting recently. With spring 2018 coming up it seems as if a review of 2017 is in order.

This was a difficult spring in Central Indiana. We first terminated the cover crops in mid-April and then it turned cold and wet so we made an additional herbicide application in late May. We were finally able to plant corn on June 2, 2017. The growing season got off to an OK start with decent rains and fairly warm temperatures. Later it turned dry with very little rain in August. The rains returned in early September.

Corn on June 21.

I went out and looked at the field in late July and there were some things worth mentioning. Keep in mind that for this project we plant cover crops in 40-foot wide strips. I wouldn’t say that corn looked better or worse in a strip but it did look like some strips were further along. We planted the entire field the same day, using the same equipment and the same settings however on July 31 some strips were well along in silking while the Oats and tillage radish strip in particular had just started to tassel and plants were about a foot shorter.

July 31, 2017. Note the strip of shorter corn starting at about the center of the picture and to the left. This is a strip planted to oats and tillage radish.
A closer view showing the difference in height and maturity between strips. In this case oats and tillage radish on the left, straight no-till on the right.

This continued through the growing season. I went into the field on August 31 to look at maturity and black layer formation (maturity) was just starting in two strips while in the no-till and Oats/Tillage Radish strips the corn was in early dent – just leaving dough stage. If I’d had no other information to go on I’d have said those strips were planted 10-14 days later than the others. Again, the corn didn’t look better or worse, just at different maturity stages. I can’t begin to reach any conclusions about that.

The plots were harvested on October 17. There were some yield differences between strips, much more significant than we saw the previous year with soybeans. Our thoughts are that because some corn matured later it was able to take advantage of September rains after a very dry August. The overall yield was 171.4 bushels which we were fairly happy with. It is also interesting that one of the cereal rye strips had a lower yield which is not surprising – planting corn into cereal rye can be a problem due to Nitrogen availability. However the other one did not.

2017 strip yields for corn. Notice the differences in both yield and moisture level between strips.

This continues to be a learning experience for us and while field observations were interesting it’s hard to see anything that could be considered actionable. As with 2016, yields were comparable in the strips planted to cover crops compared with those in straight no-till, with the exception of the two northernmost strips.