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Agronomy Update: The Finish Line Is in Sight

Tip-Back In Corn: What’s Going On?

We are well into the grain fill stage in most corn. Some areas and some earlier maturities are already in beginning dent. The finish line is not that far away for grain corn, and silage harvest will be starting in the next two weeks in many locations.

So, what’s out there? How good is the corn crop? That’s an important question for many reasons: how do I plan for harvest? Do I have enough storage available? Am I satisfied with my marketing plan as far as what percent of the crop I have marketed? What about my agronomic program this year—did I do as well as I might have? How might I improve for 2021?

One of the observations we see in many fields is that there is some exposed cob, or tip-back, on much of the crop. That observation varies greatly by location, planting date, hybrid, and growing season weather.

What are the causes of tip-back? There are many and often a combination of contributing factors.

Observations thus far this year:

  • Number of rows around the ear is pretty good, maybe higher than “normal”. Number of rows around is determined early in the growing season—usually between V6 and V10. If we have a higher than normal number, it means the growing conditions during that time frame were favorable.
  • Number of potential kernels long is very good. We set up for a potentially huge crop with a lot of ears setting 42-48 or more potential kernels. Again, while the plant was determining potential number of kernels long (more or less V10-V17), growing conditions were good.
  • Tip-back is moderate to severe in some areas.
    • Causes:
      • Most likely too hot and/or too dry during and immediately after pollination. Pollen shed seemed good, but if the plant was under stress during pollination, it can lead to reduced pollination on the end of the ear.
      • Night time heat—we experienced about a week of warm nights—above 70 degrees all night. That results in “dark respiration” in which the plant utilizes some of the day’s photosynthetic production, thus reducing overall plant performance and ultimately yield.
    • It is interesting to note the differences among hybrids and among planting dates, again suggesting different conditions during and immediately after pollination.
    • Tip-back doesn’t necessarily mean poor yields. In many cases we are finding ears with an average of 16-18 rows around and 34-36 kernels long. Depending on plant population, that can still result in yields around the 200 bu/a mark. It’s just that when you see the tip-back, you tend to think you gave up some yield. While that may be the case, it may also be the case that we set up for “home-run” yield levels but mid-season stresses took the top end off.

Now is a good time to be walking fields to get a clear idea of what is out there.

Continue to Scout, Take Notes, Learn, Make Adjustments and Decisions for 2021

As we draw closer to corn and soybean harvest, make a habit of taking a note pad (electronic versions work, just be careful to not get wet) to your fields and plots to take notes of what you see. A few things to be mindful of when walking fields prior to harvest:

  • Weed Escapes: Did your weed control plan live up to your expectations or do you have weeds that were missed? If so, do you recognize and know what weed it is? Or was it a timing issue as to when it was sprayed or worked or due to a plugged nozzle or improper mixing? If you do not recognize or know what the weed is, contact your Dairyland Seed District Sales Manager or Agronomist to help. We have seen an increase of Palmer Amaranth spreading into new areas, and we want to make sure we stop it where we can. Do you need more herbicide-resistant traits like Dairyland Seed Enlist E3® soybeans?
  • Disease Pressure:  Are you seeing heavier disease pressure in your corn fields this year versus previous years? Are you seeing new or different diseases starting to appear? We have seen areas with Tar Spot and Physoderma Brown Spot and Stalk Rot, as well as Goss’s Wilt. Look for Sudden Death Syndrome (SDS), Sclerotinia White Mold (SWM), Frogeye Leaf Spot (FLS) in your soybean fields. Have you seen them before? Are they in a new area? Do you need a different Dairyland Seed variety to help with these diseases or additional seed treatments or fungicide applications to help with control measures?
  • Fertility: Are you seeing nutrient deficiencies in your crop? Did your nutrient management plan work? Do you need to make changes? Do you need to split apply your Nitrogen and Sulfur in your corn? Are your soybean leaves showing a yellow tint on the outside leaf margins? Much like corn and alfalfa, soybeans do need fertility. Are you applying enough fertility to supply their needs?
  • Insects:  Are you seeing late season Corn Rootworm Beetles? Are they Northern, Western or Southern? This could have a bearing on what trait you use for next year’s crop. Are you seeing more areas with Soybean Cyst Nematodes (SCN)? Should we soil test those areas to find out SCN levels? Higher levels may warrant a different seed treatment or rotation.
  • Standability or Lodging: Did we have wind or weather events that will push up harvest on a field(s)? Which fields need to be harvested first and why? 

When you are walking the Dairyland Seed plots, are you seeing products with better disease or insect tolerance? Do these products have better ear development or pod set? Do you like what you see, or is there something else that you wanted to see? Take notes of what you like and don’t like about the products you plant as well as the new products you see in the plot. These notes can help your Dairyland Seed Dealer as well as District Sales Manager and Agronomist fit the products you are looking for.

When the combine or choppers start to roll, take your notes with you and write down or type in what didn’t work or what you would like to change as well as the successes you see. Did that new tile you put in help with water management? Did that additional nutrient application bring in more yield and or a better quality crop? Taking good notes allows you to look back to decisions you made as well as look forward to find what works and what needs to change.

Dairyland Seed's Agronomy Team is more than willing to help you come up with solutions to make you more successful.

Summer Seeding Alfalfa

Now is the perfect time to get that summer seeded alfalfa in the ground. There are many reasons to seed alfalfa in summer. The biggest reason being reducing the instances of seedling diseases that we may otherwise have in the spring.

The month of August is the best time to get these stands established, especially in the northern sections of the Dairyland Seed sales area. As we move further south in our footprint, planting can be extended by a week to ten days. Basically, one and a half to two months before the normal killing frost date for your given area.

Other advantages include improved yields versus spring seedings. Any annual weeds that may have germinated due to the field preparation process will be eliminated by frost and freeze. Should there be stand establishment issues, a spring reseeding could be possible. This would increase chances of ensuring forage harvest next summer.

Don’t forget the basics of starting with a good seedbed. A clean field with limited weed pressure helps in maintaining a quality alfalfa stand throughout its productive life. Make sure the soil is in proper balance especially when it comes to pH levels. Summer seeding may also help avoid some of the soil concerns we have in the spring such as compaction and wet soils.

Seeding rates and depth shouldn’t vary from spring seeding. So ¼ to ½ inch in a firm level seedbed at a rate of 18 to 20 pounds of Dairyland Seed alfalfa seed.

Corteva Technology Use Agreements

All growers with orders for any Corteva Agriscience brand seed product, regardless of crop or trait (including non-GM products) need to have a signed Corteva Technology Use Agreement in place by September 1. Growers should sign the Corteva Technology Use Agreement electronically at Signing electronically is preferable, however, paper copies are available at

Brian Weller
Brian Weller
Western Region
Dan Ritter
Central Region
Branden Furseth
Northern Region
Rod King
Eastern Region
Terry Jones
Eastern Region
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