Limit Risk in Corn-on-Corn Planting

  • A change in market prices and potential yield penalties in continuous corn can affect your 2015 profits.
  • Corn-on-corn rotation can lead to increased crop disease, insect infestations and weed resistance.
  • Nutrient and residue management can significantly affect crop volume in continuous corn acreage.
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Each season presents itself with a unique set of challenges that can make or break the bottom line, especially for those who plant continuous corn acres.  If continuous corn is on your agenda for 2015, here are some key considerations.

Market Outlook

Before purchasing a single bag of seed, growers must analyze their outputs from the previous harvest and determine what crops to plant in the coming year. Moreover, as market conditions remain flat from record corn yields and prices stay low into 2015, growers who plant continuous corn may want to consider alternatives.

Ed Usset, grain marketing specialist for the University of Minnesota, said growers should evaluate the current market and analyze crop alternatives to corn prior to planting, something that is even more important with continuous corn.

“Growers should remain patient,” he said. “With record crops coming in, we don’t expect much movement in the market for at least another eight months.” However, Usset explained that even though corn is low, it does not mean other alternatives will be much more profitable for growers if yield is down.

Weed, Disease and Pest Management

Maximizing yields in continuous corn takes management and planning, and that means a solid weed management program. Broadleaf weeds like Palmer amaranth and waterhemp  continue to develop weed resistance across the Corn Belt and growers need be cognizant about utilizing a variety of chemistries to control weeds.

A zero tolerance approach is best to keep fields clean and to ensure high yields, especially in continuous corn, where every bushel counts. Crop Science recommends utilizing multiple effective modes of action. Use a pre-emergence herbicide containing at least two modes of action, like Corvus®, tankmixed with an additional weed control agent, such as atrazine, to provide three modes of action.

A second pass during midseason should also use additional modes of action to control weed escapes.  Again, Crop Science suggests using a strong post emergence herbicide with two modes of action, like Capreno®, tankmixed with glyphosate or atrazine. This will also provide three modes of action to control broadleaf weeds and grasses to limit weed competition in your fields for a powerful, end-of-season clean.

Jeff Coulter, Extension corn specialist at the University of Minnesota, said that while corn diseases are not widespread in the northern cereals regions, gray leaf spot and anthracnose are two noted diseases to look for.

“In planting continuous corn, it’s imperative that you get out and scout your fields regularly for weeds, diseases and insects,” he said.

Stratego YLD® fungicide prevents yield loss from both early- and mid-season disease. It quickly eliminates a wide range of corn fungal diseases and provides curative properties to help plants reach maximum yield potentials. 

In the northeastern cereals region, a difficult pest to fight in continuous corn can sometimes be European corn borer (ECB), Coulter said. ECB can cause significant damage to ear and stalk strength, limit ear growth and can cause ears to break off. “The insects overwinter in corn residue left in fields,” he said.  

To battle ECB, transgenic hybrids and insecticides are great options. Early scouting and timely applications can help manage ECB popultations and help limit the damage caused by this pest.To know the signs, University of Minnesota offers growers vital information to diagnose and treat ECB.

Residue Management

A solid residue management strategy will have a large impact on yield. “Properly removing residue from the rows with row cleaners enhances seed placement and early-season vigor,” Coulter said. Best practices for corn-on-corn in the northern grains region generally are stalk chopping followed by fall disk-ripping.  

“With an excellent residue management program, growers can lessen typical yield penalties for corn-on-corn from around 10 percent to somewhere around five percent or less,” Coulter said. Too much residue can immobilize soil nitrogen, inhibit successful planting depth within-row seed placement, and can limit plant vigor.

Nutrient Application

“In continuous corn, growers need to focus on nitrogen and sulfur nutrition,” he said.

Studies completed at  the University of Minnesota suggest yield boosts are possible when planting occurs simultaneously with an application of nitrogen and or nitrogen plus sulfur that is dribbled on the soil surface 2 inches to the side of the seed row. “Concentrating these nutrients close to the young seedlings help to ensure early plant vigor and will help to stave off yellow nutrient deficiency symptoms early in the season,” said Coulter.

These early nutrient application rates are around 7 gal/A of 28/0/0 percent mix of urea and ammonium nitrate (UAN) and 2 to 4 gal/A of ammonium thiosulfate, which is dribbled on the soil surface 2 inches to the side of the row at planting.  


“If you’re a great crop manager and you have great growing conditions, you might not see yield penalties with corn-on-corn, but yield penalties of around 10 percent can occur when there is drought stress, excessive early-season rainfall, or other agronomic limitation,” Coulter said. Continuous corn produces a lot of residue which can help with preventing soil erosion. Coulter advised that those looking to plant continuous corn make a plan to scout regularly and have a solid program in place before planting.


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Ohio State University elaborates on some other key considerations to make when planting continuous corn acres in 2015.

Wondering how the 2015 corn market will be? See what AgWeb has to say about next year’s outlook as you consider what to plant.

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