What does it take to get to the next level of corn production?

In simple numbers, if you’re a 185-bushel irrigated grower, it takes about 250 bushels. If you’re a 250 to 270-bushel grower, it takes about 300 to 320 bushels per acre.

And if you’re already at 350 bushels per acre, you might want to think about going for 400 bushels.

But it’s much more complex than just setting numerical goals. It requires looking closely at your crop management and making improvements wherever possible, says Dewey Lee, University of Georgia Extension small grains agronomist.

Rather than discussing data or research, Lee told the audience at this year’s Georgia Corn Short Course that he wanted to focus more on philosophy — the philosophy of taking your corn production to the next level.

“There are things you can do to affect the growth of the plant, such as reducing heat and drought stress and nutrient stress. We increase light utilization by early planting, by using a starter fertilizer, and maybe by increasing the plant population and getting uniform emergence and tighter row spacings,” he says.

Reducing stress is very important, says Lee. “Know what’s going on in the plant. If you don’t know what’s going on in the plant, then how do you know how to address something, and how do you take it to the next level?”

Disease and insect control, fertilization and irrigation all are important factors in managing a corn crop, he adds.

“It’s difficult to irrigate to meet the crop’s needs during a La Niña year, and you may not have a system that can supply all of your water needs. If that’s the case, then you need to determine the yield level that you can sustain and manage it that way,” he says.

Lee noted that Randy Dowdy of Georgia had the second-highest corn yields in the United States in 2011 in the National Corn Growers Association Yield Contest at 364 bushels per acre. “He did it with some of the sorriest soils in the state and on rolling land. (To read about how Randy Dowdy achieved his high yields, visit http://southeastfarmpress.com/grains/georgia-yield-champ-student-growing-corn-0).

“It’s a matter of being able to evaluate your capabilities and your management style. Carefully critique what you’ve been doing. If you’re stuck on 180 or 200 bushels, we’ve got better hybrids and better irrigation systems, so what is it in that formula that you might need to improve?”