Farmers know what they want to see in a corn crop, and some of the hybrids planted this year just haven’t delivered, he says.

Also, many farmers need to upgrade planters for top-yielding corn, says Bauer. “It isn’t as easy as dropping 36,000 to 38,000 seeds, but some have done that with what I call ‘peanut planters.’ As a result, we’ve seen skips, doubles and non-uniform emergence. I’m seeing more in-row variability this year. They don’t have good placement, but they’re shooting for the stars on corn yield. It’s something we in Extension need to be talking more about – high-quality corn planters, precision planting and seed firmers,” he says.

Weed control has been good in Columbia County this season, says Bauer, but he fears that growers are relying too heavily on the use of atrazine.

“We shouldn’t be abusing atrazine, and as Extension agents we should be doing more to encourage growers to look at other things. We know there is atrazine-resistant Palmer amaranth in Georgia and atrazine-resistant tall waterhemp (a close relative to Palmer amaranth) throughout the Midwest, so that is a little concerning. The programs being used now offer good control, but I don’t know how long they’ll be sustainable, I’m hearing about off-label rates to get sufficient control.”

One of Bauer’s main concerns about nutrient management this year has been nitrogen deficiencies. The University of Florida’s recommendation calls for 210 pounds of total nitrogen on corn and 30 pounds additional per leaching rainfall.

“The challenge is that when you have your leaching rainfall event early in the season, you can’t overcome it.  Some of our corn had 200 pounds of nitrogen applied, and we received 3 ½ inches of rain on May 1. The corn was waist-high, and we can’t recover from that very well. We need it early, but we need some in the bank available to the crop. We may have lost much more than 30 pounds with that amount of rainfall.”

Much of the corn in the area is showing nitrogen deficiency on the lower leaves as the tassel emerges, he adds.

Bauer says many farmers are calling him to ask about low magnesium levels in their tissue tests. This is something that has been consistent in his seven years of working in this area.

“I don’t know the impact of this on yield, but when people ask about it, I recommend they learn from it and move on if there is no observable deficiency in the lower leaves. Often, the magnesium will come back to the sufficient level after the root system has expanded and acquired more nutrients. That plant will have gone through a period of nutrient stress, but there is little reported on successfully foliar feeding macronutrients. Magnesium is needed in the plant in large quantities.

“On some farms, where we have been working to address low magnesium levels based on tissue sampling from past years, we have been successful using 300 pounds of K-Mag preplant, and it has rectified the early season low magnesium levels. However, I’m not sure if the economic return is there for such an expensive application.”

Headed into June, corn fields in Columbia County were dry, says Bauer, and some growers were already getting behind with their irrigation.

“A half-inch rain just doesn’t charge us back up. We’re definitely dry here now, going on 14 days without rain. One day of water stress can take 8 percent off the crop yield at this time. We can lose up to 50 percent of the yield to a poorly timed pump or pivot breakdown.”

Producers should continually watch for gyrations in the market, he says. “Many of our growers contracted corn at $7 in July 2012 for July 2013 delivery. But they didn’t contract all of their acres or all of their yield. They used their average yield number. Much of the corn was planted as a last-minute decision while waiting on peanut contracts that never came. Locally, farmers can put corn in their bins and sell it for $5.68 between September and January. They can contract corn for July 2014 Delivery at $5.92. Neither are very attractive after two years of selling $7 corn without any marketing plan at all. However both are well above the $4 range that many have been predicting.”

So far, the market hasn’t cooperated in taking the sting out of high input costs, he says