Ever since he witnessed 300-bushel-per-acre corn more than 25 years ago, Fred Below, Ph.D., has spent his career researching how other farmers can do it, too. The years of groundbreaking information he’s discovered about the specific factors that affect crop yield are now available to the public at www.7WondersOfCorn.com.
Below, a professor of plant physiology in the Department of Crop Sciences at the University of Illinois, has categorized the results of his research into seven management practices or “wonders” that can result in high yielding corn. His study helps growers answer the question of what the latest products and practices contribute to yield.
Below’s unique “omission plots” allowed him and his team to see the bushel impact when an individual “high tech” practice or input was added or subtracted, then compare it to other plots in which all “high tech” actions were in place in same plot. Replicated in various locations over various years, the results allowed Below to identify and rank those seven factors with the greatest impact on corn yield.
“Roughly speaking, the higher up on the Wonder list the more control that factor exerts over the Wonders that follow,” Below explains. “When combined, all of these factors contribute to big-yield gains.” In order of importance, they are:
3. Hybrid selection
4. Previous crop
5. Plant population
7. Growth regulators
Each one interacts with the others to produce an average bushel-per-acre yield. For example, weather and nitrogen directly affect each other. But Below states that, if used correctly, nitrogen accounts for almost the same value as weather; when combined, weather and nitrogen account for more than half the crop yield. Part of the “high tech” package in Below’s study included using urea stabilized with Agrotain technology to control nitrogen losses that typically occur.
The new 7WondersOfCorn.com Web site features separate video segments dedicated to each Wonder, narrated by Below himself; a “News” section about Below’s real-world plots at the upcoming Farm Progress Show; a link to the 7WondersOfCorn Facebook page where growers can share their own photos and experiences; is easily navigable.
Below will present his plots and detail the 7 Wonders of the Corn Yield World in person at the annual Farm Progress Show (Agrotain lot 1164 on Eleventh Street) Aug. 30-Sept. 1 in Decatur, Ill. Below’s plots at the show were sponsored by Agrotain International, BASF, Dekalb and Mosaic. Company representatives will be on hand to answer grower questions as well.