Let's hope the Corn illustrated crew doesn't literally go broke trying to reach 300 bushels per acre. But they've set aside one plot where the goal is maximum agronomic yield, not just maximum economic yield. In the rest of the plots on the Jim Facemire farm, Edinburgh, Ind., the goal will be to answer economic questions that could help in your decision-making next year. Is it more economical to plant 32,000 vs. 28,00 seeds per acre? Does it pay to wait and apply nitrogen at sidedressing when the corn is set to utilize it most rather than apply it in the fall or before planting? Are there practical ways to adjust corn row width to help capture more sunlight and turn it into more yield and p[rofit without investing tons of extra expense?
Those are the questions the bulk of the plots will attempt to answer, at least based on the '08 season. But in one plot, both after soybeans and after corn, the goal will be to see how high yields can go. Last year under irrigation the CI crew reached as high as 242 bushels per acre, despite doing so on soils underlain with gravel in a dry year, with extreme heat stress, especially late in the season.
The basics will be a big part of going for high yield, notes Dave Nanda, consultant for Corn Illustrated and president of bird Hybrids, LLC, Tiffin, Ohio. The seeding rate will likely be at least 32,000 seeds per acre,, and the plot has been fertilized according to soil test results for phosphorus and potassium. The host farmer has a history of more than 20 years of taking accurate soil samples and interpreting the results for effective, economical fertilizer application.
Two big keys are irrigation and high nitrogen rate. These soils are not as prone to drought as the location of the high-yield CI plot a year ago, although irrigation is still feasible and available. Naturally, irrigation adds to the cost, but cost isn't the object tin this particular plot.
The planned nitrogen rate currently is about 260 pounds of N per acre. About 20 pounds will be applied early with the chemicals for weed control. There will also be no taking chances with insect problems in this plot. Hybrids planned for this plot this year have built-in insect resistance. In '07 the high yield plot featured non-transgenic hybrids, and still produced high yields, despite the conditions.
On other fields in the area where high yield is not the objective, rather making the most profit is the goal, Nanda is recommending about 100 pounds less N per acre. But in these plots he wants to make sure that N is not a limiting factor. The biggest variable that he won't be able to control is timing of natural rainfall, and perhaps more importantly, temperature patterns. An abundance of hot days after pollination in '07 were hard on the crop. However, the actual pollination period itself was slightly cooler than normal. Nanda will be hoping for a repeat of that scenario again this year as he and the CI crew go for 300 bushels once again.