Growers can glean valuable information by evaluating their plants within days of emergence says Genetic Researcher and Agronomist with Legend Seeds, Mike Knight.
 
"Early stage development absolutely sets the tone for the rest of the plant’s development," Knight said. "Evaluating individual plants within the field is the best way for growers to know if the plant is developing to its full potential."
 
Knight says by evaluating their plants throughout the growing season growers can gauge plant development and seed performance; verify planting depth and detect, as well as, remedy nutrient deficiency.
 
What to look for
When evaluating newly emerged plants, Knight says growers should begin by looking at a portion of the field to determine the actual emergence population. Like many aspects of plant evaluation, this helps growers determine if the seed is performing as it should.
 
"Each corn plant has its own rate of emergence and development. These things are crucial to where they are planted. If a product is planted improperly it impacts yields and ultimately profits," Knight said.
 
He then encourages growers to dig down and measure the mesocotyl, which is the distance from the seed to the soil’s surface. By doing this, growers can determine actual planting depth and if their planter was correctly calibrated.
 
"Proper planting depth goes hand in hand with strong root development. If a plant isn’t planted deep enough it will lose critical nutrient uptake and standability later in the growing season," Knight said.
 
Knight points to data from some Legend Seeds test plots which showed improper planting depth to result in yield loss of as much as 12 to 25 bushels per acre.
 
While initial plant evaluation can provide growers with useful information to use when planning 2014 management practices and selecting seed; Knight says it’s important to evaluate plants throughout the entire growing season. In some cases growers can actually increase yields through plant evaluation. For example, when looking at leaf coloration to determine if the plant is taking up the proper nutrients; if they catch a nutrient deficiency early enough in the plant’s development, there is the opportunity to side dress before yields are negatively impacted.
 
Throughout the season he says it’s also important to note the plant’s stage of development and compare it to its peers. After pollination, he encourages growers to review ear development and stalk health.
 
"Plant evaluation helps growers develop their harvesting plan," he said. "Some early maturing hybrids may need to be harvested prior to the desired 15 percent moisture. Remember, once the plant matures it begins to shut down and the stalk dries down becoming weaker than it once was."