With a few weeks left before corn harvest begins, producers might have a little “free time” in between getting harvest and storage equipment ready, trucking the last of 2018’s crop, and cleaning out grain bins in preparation for harvest 2019.

Most of the corn in Hardin County will reach blacklayer (physiological maturity of the corn plant) within the coming weeks, and full season soybeans are setting and filling pods. Now is a good time to get out and take a look at this year’s crop to identify problems and find solutions to them for next year, while also looking for things you did right so you can duplicate those things next year.

Here are a few things to look for and keep in mind while out scouting your fields.

Pollination and Grain Fill.In the corn crop, check ears for pollination issues, ear girth and length and grain fill. You really have little control over pollination issues because they usually are a result of heat and/or dry weather at time of pollination. Ear girth and length usually are determined by stress, or lack there of, early in plant development. Girth is determined around V6 and length is determined prior to tassel.

If you see problems with ear girth, think about what was going on earlier in the plant’s life. Was there moisture stress? Was the plant experiencing a nutrient deficiency? Did you do something to stress the plant early on such as make a herbicide application at the wrong time, allow too much weed competition, or create sidewall compaction at planting time? Make notes of this and try to improve upon these areas next year.

This also is a good time to look at what hybrids performed well this year. Our area has had a challenging growing season, beginning the year too wet and finishing with county wide drought conditions. This year will be a good year to see which hybrids stood up to the challenge. In central Kentucky, more years than not you are going to see some degree of mois­ture stress. All hybrids handle stress differently. This year, these hybrids should rise to the top. Look back at previous performance in years with more op­ti­mal growing conditions and see which hybrids did best, then compare them to this year to come up with the best balance of stress tolerance and top end yield.

Grain fill and tip back usually are a direct result of stress after pollination. This stress often can be a result of competition because of plant/planting population. A good benchmark to know if you planted the correct population for the particular year is to look at the amount of tip back. If there is a small amount – less than 1 inch – then your population was optimum for the particular year. If you have significant tip back in your ears this year, you may want to look at lowering planting populations going forward.

Final Stand/Plant Pop­ulat­ions. Do stand counts on corn and look at your stand in your soybeans. If final stands are within 10 percent of planted population, great. If they are not, or if plant spacing is erratic, start looking for reasons why. Was the weather cool and/or wet at planting time? Was there insect pressure at emergence? Should you have applied an insecticide at planting? Is the planter itself to blame? If so, should the planter go through the shop this winter and worn parts be replaced, or is it time for an upgrade? Prices of used row crop equipment are dropping right now with grain prices and dealer lots are full. If your economic situation allows, you may be able to take advantage of these full lots and upgrade to a dealer trade in with just a few years of use.

Weed Control. While it’s too late to do anything about it in most situations this year, take a look at late season weed pressure in your corn and soybeans. Do you have many weed escapes? What weeds are out there? Will they be a problem next year in those fields? If you put down residuals, did they last long enough? Do you need to look at changing your chemical program next year and/or application timing?

There are several things that can be learned while walking your fields this time of year. As farmers, we’re all lifelong learners and it can never be too early to plan for the future. With the recent rains, here’s to hoping for a safe and bountiful harvest this fall.

New Location. We’re moving. Bear with us in the coming days as we move to our new lo­cation. It’s tough trying to work and continue to serve the community while packing up an office full of stuff and moving it to another location.

We are in the final steps now, and plan on opening to the public Monday, Aug. 19, in our new location at 111 Opportunity Way, at the corner of Ring Road and the Western Kentucky Parkway. We feel blessed to serve the community out of our new building and the opportunities that will come with our new location. Come and see us.

Matt Adams is a Hardin County Extension agent for agriculture and natural resources.