"The bottom line is get out into your fields during the growing season, identify problem areas early while evidence is still there to aid diagnostics and figure out what's going on with your crops," Nielsen said.

Some key considerations for farmers include:

• Field drainage: Poorly drained soils can hinder the establishment of vigorous corn stands by challenging the uniformity of roots and plant development. Improving tile or surface drainage reduces the risks of ponding or soggy soils, denitrification and soil compaction.

• Soil erosion control and soil moisture conservation: In areas of rolling hills with high risks of soil erosion and reduced ability to retain soil moisture, Nielsen said it is important to minimize water runoff and maximize soil moisture retention. Some techniques include no-till or reduced tillage, strip-cropping, contour farming, terraces and other water control structures, and fall and winter cover crops.

• Hybrid selection: "The key challenge is to identify hybrids that not only have good yield potential but that also tolerate a wide range of growing conditions," Nielsen said. "The best way to accomplish this is to evaluate hybrid performance across a lot of locations. University trials are good for this exercise."

• Nitrogen management: Because the Eastern Corn Belt has poorly drained soils, ample rainfall and the risk of nitrogen loss by either denitrification or leaching, growers need to pay special attention to nitrogen management. According to Nielsen, best management practices include avoiding fall applications, avoiding surface application of urea-based fertilizers without incorporation, and adopting side-dress nitrogen application programs where practical.

• Disease management: Warm, humid summer weather conditions in the Eastern Corn Belt are ideal for the development of many corn diseases, such as gray leaf spot and northern corn leaf blight. The best ways to manage these diseases are by selecting hybrids for strong disease resistance characteristics, avoiding continuous corn-cropping systems, avoiding no-till cropping systems and responsibly using foliar fungicides.

Finally, Nielsen said, producers need to "remember it ain't rocket science."

"We're talking about a lot of common-sense agronomic principles that work together to minimize the usual crop stresses that occur every year and allow the crop to better tolerate uncontrollable weather stresses," he said.

For Nielsen's complete Jan. 28 report on "Corn Management for Extreme Conditions," visit the Chat 'N Chew Café at http://www.agry.purdue.edu/ext/corn/cafe/.