As growers prepare for harvest, it’s a great time to gather observations about the crop. The combine cab is similar to a chair in the doctor’s office in that most growers can make observations about symptoms of ailments they are seeing when they are at a different angle above the crop. The real question that growers can and should be considering is what is the deeper meaning of these symptoms?
Let’s use a field with symptoms of Sudden Death Syndrome (SDS) as an example. As you sit in the cab thinking about these symptoms, consider why you are seeing the issue as opposed to the problem itself. Many times problem areas in a field emerge because of a hidden issue. In the areas where you’re seeing spots of SDS,
are you experiencing compaction problems? If so, have you probed those areas to test for compaction that might be ameliorated with a deep ripper? Have you tested those areas for Cyst Nematods?
The same can be said for bad spots in corn. When you hit a low-yielding area remember to go back and look at your maps or any aerial imagery you might have to help diagnose the problem. Ideally, as hard as it may be to stop the combine, you should take a minute to document problems through photos and keep them as a collection that you can go back and reference later.
Another tool you can use in these spots – even retroactively – is a shovel. After harvest, go to these areas to look at the roots. Often times the true cause of the symptom lies underground. Is there a problem with root structure related to planting conditions? Did a limited root structure reduce nutrient access and uptake that led to nitrogen deficiencies? Have you considered running a fall soil nitrate test?
With the increased access to technology, harvest is a great time to take notes from the ‘examination chair’ and start to overlay the different layers of data that are available to help diagnose and correct issues for the future. Utilize soil tests, imagery, tissue tests (if you took them), yield maps and your bare hands to become a sleuth and discover what might be the cause of the problem to rectify and eliminate these issues in the future.