3 Ways to Protect Your Organic Corn Acres
Organic farming requires that every acre, every animal, play a vital role and live up to its potential in order for the entire operation to profit. Your investment of time and financial resources in the commitment to organic production faces challenges from all fronts. Especially in the potential for weeds and insects to reduce yield in your organic corn fields.
Get the most from your organic corn seed by implementing strategies to minimize pressure and yield reduction in your corn acres.
“Typically, a successful organic weed-management system relies on rotational cropping as a base with further control provided through integrated methods,” writes Sharon A. Clay in a South Dakota State University Extension iGrow best practices publication. No doubt, as an experienced organic producer, you are already implementing this strategy. But there are other steps you can take as well.
Rotational cropping to provides your soil and crops with the best opportunity to recover and avoid the build-up of pests and pathogens. Management practices and decisions discussed here can help you avoid crop loss on your organic corn acres, whether you are harvesting grain or putting up silage for use in an organic dairy or livestock operation.
1. Consider A Cover Crop For Organic Weed Control and Fertility
There are many of the benefits of rotational cropping. Benefits such as increasing soil nitrogen with a legume crop between years of planting corn, and weed suppression when you use a cover crop mixture of cereal and legumes. (Rodale Institute)
A mixture of cereal crops can generate a high amount of biomass to reduce light availability to weeds. Also, legumes that provide substantial nitrogen release for fertility, provide the optimum cover crop mulch. Rodale Institute cites studies that show early fall cover crop establishment into a conventionally tilled seedbed using a grain drill aids in achieving a high cover crop biomass.
Options for terminating and mulching the cover crop included roller-crimping either one to three weeks prior to planting corn or at the time of planting. Use a no-till planter for organic corn seed . Excellent weed suppression was reported at six of seven study sites using these methods.
2. Select Organic Corn Hybrids for Pest Resistant Traits
While organic corn hybrids obviously don’t have the genetically-modified pest resistance traits of their biotech cousins, many have a natural resistance to certain insects or pathogens. Closely monitor your fields for pest pressure. Then choose hybrids that are more tolerant of any issues you know exist where you intend to plant corn. Also, regularly rotate crops across your acres.
Some traits to look for in your organic corn seed choices include:
- Rapid germination
- Early vigor
- Tight husks
- Earlier maturing
These traits make the crop less vulnerable to insect damage.
Rapid germination and seedling grow-off reduces the time corn seed/seedlings spend in the most sensitive stage. This state is from germination to the six leaf stage. Rapid germination also helps the crop gain a size advantage over weeds. Early maturity protects the plants from the higher levels of some insects and pathogens. These insect and pathogens, that develop in late July and August, would be attracted to plants that are still green and immature. (North Carolina State University Extension)
Kussmaul Seeds offers a range of organic corn seed with the traits you need for whatever conditions your fields present.
- KO-44O77 is an early hybrid with excellent early vigor for a strong emergence in cooler soils, as is KO-44O86.
- KO44O95 has a strong natural tolerance to a number of pathogens, including tar spot, souther leaf blight, common rust and stalk anthracnose.
3. Use Early Season Tillage to Disrupt Insect Populations
If no-till with a cover crop isn’t right for your operation, an alternative management method, like early disking can help. North Carolina State University’s extension service notes that many of the insects that feed on seeds and small seedlings are typically found in the soil or at the soil surface.
By disking in early spring, these pests are exposed to the elements and to bird feeding. The combined actions of these factors disrupts populations of potential pests, offering protection for seeds and seedlings. Additional protection may be offered by practices such as row-bedding and seeding at the recommended depth. Also selecting hybrids specifically for early vigor can help, as noted earlier.
Helping you choose the best organic corn seed for your operation
Kussmaul’s organic corn hybrids range in maturity from 77 days to 105 days. These hybrids are produced by an organic seed producer, on organic soils, using inbred parent lines that were researched, bred and produced on organic soils. Seed processing is certified by the Organic Association for delivery to organic growers. This certification maintains the integrity of your organic farming operation.
Our district sales managers can be strong resources to help you choose the right hybrids for your acres, based on natural resistance to pests and pathogens and your management style, whether no-till or using tillage as your weed control mechanism.
Find the sales manager for your region on our website here or download a complete catalog of Kussmaul Seeds corn seed (organic, conventional, traited and silage-specific), soybean seed, alfalfa seed, forages and wildlife mixes.