6/1/28: Corn Fields as a Factory

A corn field in June is similar to a new factory construction process.  In order to build a new factory there are several key events that must take place.  The first is a plan must be constructed, the materials purchased, a foundation must be laid and then finally the structure housing all of the specific machines is built.  A corn plant in June is similar to a factory where there was a plan make, materials purchased and the corn plant is busy constructing a foundation and a building to produce a product: grain.

The first two steps in the factory building process are the planning process and purchasing of materials.  You have spent many hours planning what to plant and how to plant your crop.  Materials such as Dekalb seed corn, Roundup PowerMax, and Super Grow along with equipment have been purchased in order to build the factory.  These steps were completed long before June, but are still critical to the success of the corn crop.

Constructing the foundation of a great corn crop is as important as laying a strong foundation for a building.  Just like a factory’s foundation, often there is a lot of work put into the project but very little of that work is visible.  Corn roots are critical to provide the corn plant with nutrients and water as well as providing Standability which is critical for success.  During June, the corn plant is actively growing its root mass.  The larger the root mass, the more potential for higher yields and to handle adverse conditions.  For instance, during the first 21 days of a corn plants life there will be approximately 54 miles of roots per acre produced in the top 12 inches of soil.  In the next 50 days an additional 32 miles of roots per acre grow to depths of three feet.

While a strong root foundation is being built, the above ground portion, or factory, is being enlarged.  The corn plant is the overall building structure while the cells are the area of the factory where photosynthesis occurs.  Photosynthesis is the process that sunlight is turned into sugar and the sugar is used to grow the plant and to produce grain.  The month of June is spent building the plant.  Within the first 70 days after planting, the corn field will have amassed approximately 9,000 pounds of stover per acre.  The stover consists of stalks and 18 to 20 leaves of the corn plant.  When a corn seed is planted there are only five leaves in the embryo and the corn plant must “manufacture” an additional 13 to 15 leaves.  The larger the leaf area the more potential for higher yields.  During the first part of the plants growing cycle it will produce a new leaf every five to six days, but in the second half of the growth stage a new leaf is made every one to two days.  Corn growth is rapid and is a critical part of a corn plants long term success.

Along with laying the foundation and constructing the building during the month of June, the corn plant is also determining the largest ear it can support.  The maximum yield potential of a seed is prior to planting.  Everything we do from there forward can either maintain or reduce the yield potential of the seed.  Your goal is to limit the yield loss by providing the corn plant with the best possible growing environment.  During the development stage the corn plant is evaluating the environment, the health of the root system and the ability of the corn leaves to produce enough sugar to support the ear.  If something occurs during this period such as drought, compaction, herbicide damage, or mechanical damage, the corn plant will lower the kernel count on the potential ear to fit into the new parameters.

In the end, when you scout your corn acres over the nest few weeks, we hope Smith Fertilizer and Grain have helped you lay a strong foundation, constructed the building to produce a large crop and have provided the necessary tools to increase the yield in this factory.

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