Lee says growers should challenge themselves to become students of the crop they grow, whatever that crop may be. “Learn how that plant grows, and learn everything you can about your crop. Focus on how to positively affect the growth of the plant.”

In many cases, he says, growers aren’t “keeping” the yield potential of the hybrids they’re selecting.

“There are 500 bushels of corn in that seed bag, on a per-acre basis. When a company sells you a bag of seed, there are 500 bushels per acre locked up in that bag. Think about what the genetics are and what the yield potential is.

“I want you to begin by thinking about how to keep that yield, not how to increase it. The yield’s already there. If you start thinking about how you can keep the yield that’s in the bag, your production will move to the next level,” he says.

Looking at the University of Georgia’s corn variety trials from this past year, there was a wide range throughout the state, says Lee.

“In our tests, there are 50 to 60 bushels between hybrids. So your decision to choose a hybrid is exceedingly important. Choose those that match your management style and that fit your production level, and then make sure you continually incorporate those genetics on your farm.”

Use the genetic traits that’ll benefit you economically, advises Lee.

Growers should be pre-planning their production rather than just following the same routine from previous years, he says.

“Many hybrids today are responding to higher plant populations as long as you keep them watered, but this may require a change in production methods.”

In addition to routine soil testing, growers also should conduct in-season tissue analysis to make sure their crops are responding to what they’ve applied.

“It also can give you an indication what else you might need to do. Maybe you should conduct a timely tissue analysis early in the season to make sure the crop is utilizing the nutrients you’ve applied. Perhaps you need to apply something through the system.

“As we make higher and higher yields, we begin to learn we don’t know enough, and we begin to realize that maybe our sufficiency levels aren’t high enough. We can see this throughout the season.”

Growers with irrigation should regularly check the efficiency of their equipment, says Lee, and replace their nozzles if needed.