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  • Writer's pictureRachel Stevens

Plant Health is more than just Yield

I was listening to The Corn Revolution Podcast this week and the topic they were discussing really got me thinking. The title was “Plant health across our products are really helping make harvest smoother.” So often we think about plant health, both the genetics and foliar application side of things, all in relation to yield. Do we have better stalk strength for nutrient transport? Do the leaves resist diseases and stay green longer so they can capture more sunlight to turn it into sugars and energy which equals yield? We even plan our fungicide applications in terms of the yield benefit. Think about how many times we have said, corn fungicide will get you X bushels/acre. But there are more benefits, that might be just as important as yield. And the one we are benefiting most from right now is harvestability.

Having high yielding crops is not much use to us if we can’t harvest them. If plant health is so poor, we can’t stand leaning plants back up into the head, or have lost ears due to ear drop, high yields are of no benefit to us. What we are seeing with so many of the new genetics coming out of Pioneer is such an emphasis on plant health. We are seeing excellent stalk strength ratings, exceptional disease resistance, and impressive ear retention. So not only are these hybrids producing yield, they are keeping it until you can harvest it. The perfect combination.

I want to talk a little bit about harvestability and taking a broader look at plant health. Bayer defines harvestability as “the condition of the crop and its suitability for harvest. In other words, the ease and efficiency of harvest.” I think that is a very comprehensive definition and useful when we think of some of our harvest goals. I would say the main goal of most farmers during harvest is efficiency. How efficiently can I harvest this field, both in path planning, as well as moving grain from combine to cart to truck to storage. Having a crop that is standing well and processing through the combine well, maintains that efficiency for a farmer. (Some estimates say that downed corn can double the input costs needed to harvest that field. And just think of the stress.)

Let’s just think about the impacts of poor crop health right now. If you have a field with poor plant health, maybe stalk strength issues, and are struggling to pick up ears, you are running the combine slower, maybe not getting as good of kernel cleaning, and aren’t maximizing your harvest efficiency. Not only is that an added stress to the combine operator in terms of combine operation but also all the logistics and planning that goes on for orchestrating loads and trucks from the start of the pipeline. But now also think about the fields you could have got done in that time. Harvest is such a timings game, and I know many of you look back on the harvest season thinking of how you would have done it instead. What field order you would have done instead, how much longer you would have gone before the rain, where you would have taken those last few loads. Don’t let poor plant health complicate the issue.

I’ll step off my soap box now. But in summary, plant health, both from a genetic and foliar fungicide application, is so much more than the yield we can get out of it. It’s also harvest ease and efficiency, logistics and timing.


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