CFQ: Integrated Management Necessary for 300-Bushel Corn

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Many corn growers across the Corn Belt see the potential for growing 300-bushel-per-acre corn on fields they farm.

Seed companies emphasize fertility and soil health as key for the highest yields because even an aggressive yield-potential hybrid cannot produce without the right fertility and delivery of nutrients at the right time of plant growth. But taking a jump in yield goal of 50 or more bushels per acre requires an integrated high-management approach.

“Once you’ve identified that field or farm, you go back to the hybrid selection,” said Keith Porter, agronomy services lead for Mycogen Seeds.  “Does the hybrid that demonstrated yield match up with your goals? Is it the right maturity, with the desired trait packages for herbicide use and insect control? Can you plan population and row spacing for individual plants to develop root mass to get nutrients to support those high yield goals?”

He said, “The next questions include: Is soil pH in the ideal range; do you understand the timing of nitrogen needs, such as a hybrid that needs nitrogen early at kernel row development and late in order to keep the plant from cannibalizing the stalk; are the macro elements of P and K adequate along with any needed micronutrients; is a scouting plan in place for determining insect and disease along with corrective actions including fungicide use; and, finally, is a harvest management plan in place to get the yield out of the field?”

Just as Porter noted all the variables and input considerations, Kyle Freeman, Ph.D., manager of new product development with the Mosaic company, agrees wholeheartedly in the need for a whole systems approach and considerations for jumping yields 50 or more bushels per acre.

Freeman noted plant population and protection of the plants against any stresses, especially diseases needing a fungicide. He then mentioned what would seem to be the obvious that feeding the plants with more nutrients will be required to fill out more corn kernels. And replacing all the nutrients mined from the soil from one year to the next is imperative.

A big jump in yield requires thinking of corn production in a whole systems approach. “This is the first thing that I bring up when talking to growers,” he said.

“It is really important to have a good evaluation of where you are with both your macronutrients and micronutrients—nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium, sulfur, magnesium, boron and calcium,” he said. And Freeman once again was in step with Porter when he said, “Make sure you are planning for success at the beginning of the season.”

“Because of the environmental complexity of nitrogen and the loss factors associated with it, data shows that it can be very beneficial to split the nitrogen application,” Freeman noted, “to continually provide the nitrogen as close to when there are high demand time frames for it by the corn plant.”

To achieve the highest yields, Freeman suggested, “We see a tremendous response to soil-applied sulfur when we start pushing the yields.” As for other micronutrients, he said, “Zinc is a really important nutrient for corn.” Then he noted, “People are spending more time addressing boron needs in high yield corn.”

Addressing high yield corn goals is why Mosaic began offering a premium fertilizer in its MicroEssentials SZ. The phosphorus, “season-long” sulfur and zinc are combined into one granule for balanced crop nutrition.

But the ending comment by both company specialists was to advise corn growers to lean on their local agronomists (seed, ag retailer or private) for recommendations to fine-tune any high-yield program.

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