With some time to go before corn harvest begins, producers may have a little “free time” in between getting harvest and storage equipment ready, trucking the last of 2020’s crop and cleaning out grain bins in preparation for harvest 2021.

Much of the corn in Hardin County will reach blacklayer (physiological maturity of the corn plant) over the next month and full season soybeans either already are or soon will be 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 that 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 are usually 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 like 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 is also a good time to look at what hybrids performed well this year. Our area has had a good growing season in general. This year will likely be a good year to see which produce top yields, but keep in mind, In central Kentucky, more years than not you are going to see some degree of moisture stress. All hybrids handle stress differently. Look back at previous performance in years with sub-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 are usually a direct result of stress after pollination. This stress can often be a result of competition due to 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% of planted population, great. If they are not, or if plant spacing is erratic, start looking for reasons why. A lot of corn was planted under cool and somewhat wet conditions this year. 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? If so, start looking now as the used equipment market is hot right now!

-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 never can be too early to plan for the future! With the recent rains, here’s to hoping for a safe and bountiful harvest this fall.

Matt Adams is a Hardin County Extension Agent for agriculture and natural resources. He can be reached at 270-765-4121.

Matt Adams is a Hardin County Extension Agent for agriculture and ntural resources. He can be reached at 270-765-4121.