After farming for more than 40 years, Garry Niemeyer is no stranger to change. But the past few years have given him a new outlook on the need to adapt more rapidly than ever before.

“We have had bugs, we have had disease, we have drought, we have had floods, we have had everything,” says Niemeyer, who farms near Auburn, lll.

Continuous corn hit

The combination of weather extremes and disease and insect pressure have been especially hard on continuous corn, which took a 40-bushel per acre yield hit in 2010, 2011 and 2012 compared to rotated corn. “For me the answer was to go back to a 50:50 corn-bean rotation,” says Niemeyer. “It had been 85:15.”

He suspects a combination of factors were at play. Both 2010 and 2011 started off wet, a special challenge on his heavy, dark soils, and led to poor early corn growth. Diplodia ear rot took a toll both years. Japanese beetles attacked the crop in 2010, and grew worse in 2011. Beetles were back in 2012, further hampering the drought-stressed crop.

“We have had 5-inch floods in recent years, pounding rain after pounding rain, weeks on end,” says Niemeyer. “Diplodia is tied to Japanese beetles, and both are tied to the weather.”

More tiling

Niemeyer hopes that increased tiling will help reduce risk of yield loss from wet soils.

In recent years he’s tiled an additional 300 of his 2,100 acres, starting first with 12- and 24-inch trunk lines, with plans to add lateral lines in the future. “In the past three years we have put more tile in the ground than we have in a lifetime,” he says.

Also on the agenda: revising N applications to reduce risk of spring losses due to excessive soil moisture. This fall he reduced application rates of protected anhydrous ammonia by one-third. Niemeyer will follow with 28% N at planting and urea over the top when corn is knee-high.

“Applying more of the nitrogen closer to when it is needed will give more protection and be more sustainable,” says Niemeyer.