Originally published in the Chat 'n Chew Cafe, April 2000
URL: http://www.kingcorn.org/news/articles.00/Troubleshooting-0412.html

Gird thyself for battle!

R.L. (Bob) Nielsen
Agronomy Dept., Purdue Univ.
West Lafayette, IN 47907-1150
Email address: rnielsen@purdue.edu

Rain, in varying amounts, around the state has temporarily dampened the early planting fever that had been spreading like wildfire in recent weeks. Some of the regular patrons have even returned to the Chat 'n Chew Café to dispense their opinions and fearmongering about the pending 2000 crop season. One fellow was heard to remark that "Every hybrid's maximum yield potential exists while it is still in the seed bag. After we plant it, that potential is at risk from every insect, disease, soil and weather problem that comes along."

There is no question that initial stand establishment and early season growth of the crop are very important in protecting that maximum yield potential. As a wise mentor of mine once said, "The sins of planting will haunt you all season!" Problems can begin with the planting process itself. See my earlier reminder about planter maintenance issues.

Various problems can also occur during the germination, emergence and seedling establishment periods that result in uneven or failed stands of corn or soybean. Diagnosing the causes of such problems can be difficult because 1) the symptoms often do not point to a specific cause, 2) problems often develop as a result of an interaction between two or more causes, 3) the severity of the problem is often greatly influenced by weather conditions and 4) folks often wait too long to make the diagnosis. The consequence of the latter factor is that crop diagnostic evidence can disappear very quickly, making an accurate diagnosis difficult to accomplish. Here are some tips to help you become well-prepared for making timely and accurate crop problem diagnoses.

Do your homework!

It's probably been a long time since your parents admonished you to do that. Most of us, though, need to annually "bone up" on crop problems that can occur.

One of the best references for refreshing your crop problem diagnostic skills is Purdue's IPM-1, Field Crops Pest Management Manual. This impressive manual "…contains descriptions, scouting procedures, and management guidelines (many new or updated) for insect, weed, disease, nematode, and vertebrate pests of corn, soybeans, alfalfa, grain sorghum, and small grains. Problem diagnostic guides for each crop, as well as keys to the identification of insect and weed pests are included." The manual sells for $80 and an order form can be downloaded from the Web at http://www.entm.purdue.edu/Entomology/ext/targets/HN/HN-13/IPM_1ad.pdf .

A number of other useful online references are available from Purdue and other neighboring landgrant universities. I have collected links to some of these and have posted them on one of my corny Web pages at http://www.kingcorn.org/cgg6.htm . These references cover the gamut from insects to diseases to weeds to growth and development.

Walk your fields!

Up at the counter at the Chat 'n Chew, Roy brags that he's been using remote sensing to scout his fields. Everyone knows that all Roy does is drive up and down the country roads at 20 miles per hour looking out the windshield at his fields. Until true remote sensing becomes practical, timely and affordable, the best advice that I can give for early detection of crop problems is to get off your duff and walk your fields as early and as often as you can.

Early detection is of little use unless it is coupled with accurate crop problem diagnosis of the cause(s). Completing your previously mentioned homework will better equip you to make such diagnoses yourself. Sometimes, though, you simply need to call in the "hired guns" to help out.

Qualified agronomic experts include your local county Extension educator, agronomists from your local fertilizer/chemical/seed supplier(s), regional sales agronomists, regional tech. reps., independent crop consultants and your friendly neighborhood university Extension specialists. A list of the latter experts was published in the first issue of the 2000 Purdue Pest & Crop Newsletter. In addition, the Purdue Plant & Pest Diagnostic Lab. offers identification or diagnosis of plant and pest problems for samples submitted to the lab. Peggy Sellers is the director of the PPDL and can be reached at 765-494-7071.

Stay in touch!

Knowledge of what is going on or developing outside of your particular universe (farm) can help you avoid being caught off-guard by some agronomic problem. Obviously, the proverbial coffeeshop discussions give you some insight into what others are experiencing. A number of agricultural input suppliers publish frequent newsletters for their customers and represent useful sources of timely information.

Other useful sources of timely information are the weekly or bi-weekly newsletters that are published by Purdue and other landgrant universities. Don't hesitate to read articles from our colleagues in neighboring states. Often the problems or issues they are writing about reflect what we are also experiencing or will soon experience.

If you have access to the Web, then bookmark my Chat 'n Chew Café site at http://www.kingcorn.org/chatchew.htm . At that site, I compile and publish links to those newsletters and other sources of timely agronomic information so that you do not have to "surf" the Web yourself. Other online sources of timely information are listed at our Agronomy Extension site at the URL http://www.agry.purdue.edu/ext/timely.htm .

Corn Growers GuidebookFor other information about corn, take a look at the Corn Growers Guidebook on the World Wide Web at http://www.kingcorn.org

It is the policy of the Purdue Agronomy Department that all persons shall have equal opportunity and access to its programs and facilities without regard to race, color, sex, religion, national origin, age, or disability. Purdue University is an Affirmative Action employer. This material may be available in alternative formats.
© 2000, Purdue University
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