Perhaps the most interesting Crops Illustrated plot remains in the field, at least as of today. Crops Illustrated is the project initiated by Farm Progress Companies to learn and distribute more information about corn production.
The plots are located near Edinburgh, Indiana, about 30 miles south of Indianapolis. The soil is a loam, or desirable medium texture, but it converts to gravel at three feet or so below the surface. That's why a non-irrigated nitrogen plot and many hand-planted, small-plot replicated plots were ready for harvest in early to mid-September. Plants simply ran out of moisture and dried down much faster than normal. The nitrogen plots were harvested during the first week of September, with yields topping at 90 bushels per acre and moisture content out-of-the-field running as low as 12 percent.
The second plot is on similar soil, but is irrigated. The farmer-cooperator, Jim Facemire, uses an irrigation scheduling program developed at the university level to help him decide when to irrigate. Needless to say, the kept his rigs funning for a good part of the summer.
Goal in the irrigated plot was to shoot for high yields. Dave Nanda, consultant for Corn Illustrated, threw out 325 bushels per acre as a reasonable goal. That was before he knew the field would receive roughly 5 inches from May 1 to now, and would experience nearly 40 days of temperatures of 90 For above, more than double the average for the area, or that the latest day in the season ever recording a 90 degree day would occur this year, or that the first 10-days of October would average 15 degrees above normal!
Nevertheless, to try to reach top yield, Nanda selected three hybrids noted for high yield. Each was planted at 32,000, the farmer's normal setting, and 41,000 seeds per acre. Then 250 total pounds of N were applied per acre. Strips within the plot were sprayed with fungicide after tasseling.
The other twist on the plot is that one section was irrigated every time the scheduling program suggested that water should be added. The middle third of the plot wasn't irrigated until after pollination, and then was irrigated every time the program called for water. The final section was not irrigated at all, but all received the same planting rates and nitrogen rate.
With the corn still standing into mid-October at those kinds of populations, it should be possible to get a handle on whether higher population leads to more lodging. That's long been one of the concerns about going to higher populations of corn. Nanda also is anxious to see how much difference in lodging he can pick up between the parts of the field that received various levels of moisture stress.
Walking through a different field in northern Indiana this week, just before it was harvested, a farmer noted that the stalks were easy to push over. Some would bend and break over easily. Obviously, stalk rots were working in the field, even though a relatively dry summer may have kept them from being super active. On the flip side, even warm weather would tend to favor some stalk rots.
Look for a report on plot within the next two weeks. "It would take a boatload of rain to keep us from crossing the soil without a problem or doing damage, as dry as it is," the farmer quipped. He will harvest the plot with a John Deere combine equipped with the latest version of Ag Leader's Insight yield monitor and mapping system.