While it’s true some early-adopters have been growing corn in Western Canada for upwards of 25 years, it’s a new crop for many. And with new corn hybrids now available to suit Western Canada’s unique short-season needs, many more growers are expected to jump on the corn bandwagon in the coming years. Corn has much to offer producers as a profitable, high-value crop. But before you plant next spring, here are some key factors to work into your business plan.
1. Know your farm
When are you generally able to get into the field? How much heat or “corn heat units” is normal for your area? Corn heat units are calculated based on a formula of max and min temps over time. When do you receive your first killing frost? How much rainfall does your area typically receive? Most producers track these patterns, and they’ll need to consult typical dates to determine opportunities for grain corn in the area.
2. Know the crop and its end use
Growers need to determine whether they’ll grow silage, grazing or grain corn. It is recommended to choose a hybrid that is best suited to your specific needs. If you would like to produce both silage and grain corn, you will need different hybrids that are adapted to these uses.
Silage corn is best known to Western Canada because it provides a valuable source of feed for beef and dairy producers. Harvesting silage corn is reasonably easy too because most producers only require a different header on forage harvesters they already own. Grain corn requires investment up front, for planters and harvesting equipment. Corn dryers or access to corn dryers is also recommended.
Given the new ultra-early maturity hybrids now available in Western Canada, grain corn is a profitable choice.
3. Research your tools before you start
First-time corn growers should be aware that corn is best planted with a corn planter — not an air seeder. And, they’ll need to learn about what weed control products are available to them. Weed control varies by province, soil type and land type. Corn does not like early weed competition.
Growers who enter the corn marketplace with a good awareness of what weeds they typically expect from their fields, and what products they have access to for treating them will undoubtedly fare better in this new, exciting market for Western Canada.
4. Lastly, land prep
Growers will want to have their soil tested to ensure optimal corn fertility conditions. Corn also prefers warmer soils so tillage of some sort is ideal to allow the soil to warm faster. It is best to plant corn when the soil is at least 10 C.
For answers to questions about growing corn in your area, contact your local seed representative.
Debbie Stiles is DuPont Pioneer’s marketing manager for Western Canada.