Pushing for 300-bushel corn yields

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Research completed during the last three years shows that a new systems approach to high-yield corn production management significantly out-produced conventional production systems. In 2011, researchers saw an average 30-bushels-per-acre yield advantage and as much as 92 bushels per acre in one location despite temperature and moisture stress. Top yields reached 300 bushels in one location where growing-season moisture was closer to normal, and several other locations nearly reached that goal.

“To optimize production and move to the 300-bushel-per-acre corn yield goal targeted for 2030, we have to identify new and more efficient ways to optimize the yield potential of rapidly advancing crop genetics,” explains Dan Froehlich, Ph.D. and manager of New Product Development with The Mosaic Company. “This means investigating innovative approaches to crop production, which is why we’re working in conjunction with the University of Illinois to evaluate this systems approach.” 

The innovative systems approach to high yields being investigated by Mosaic and the University of Illinois incorporates five technologies or agronomic approaches. Results show the beneficial synergies of combining them. The advanced agronomic system includes additional phosphorus, provided by MicroEssentials SZ, and additional nitrogen, provided by SuperU stabilized nitrogen to ensure adequate nitrogen (N) is available later in the season. A triple-stack hybrid with both corn borer and corn rootworm insect protection is used, planted at 45,000 plants per acre in 30-inch rows, with a strobilurin fungicide applied at flowering.  The traditional system includes university nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium recommendation levels, double-stack hybrids, 32,000 plants per acre, and no fungicide use.

Results of research from 2009 and 2010 over 11 comparisons showed an average yield benefit of 62 bushels per acre compared to the conventional management approach. The yield advantage across all locations ranged from 40 to 114 bushels per acre.

Researchers at the University of Illinois also have studied the nutrient uptake of corn hybrids protected by insect-resistant traits, and found that the per-acre removal rates of nutrients (N, P, K, S, Zn) are from 14 to 27 percent greater for hybrids with the rootworm-resistant gene. These hybrids have more intact roots and develop greater root mass than their nonresistant counterparts. This enables them to take up more nutrients from the soil, resulting in higher yields. Ensuring adequate and balanced levels of crop nutrients is crucial in maximizing the high-yield potential of these corn hybrids. 

“We’ve learned that a key component to the success of this type of program is to provide the crop with not only a higher level of nutrition, but also a balanced nutrition program,” says Froehlich. “Most growers understand crops need nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium, but they also must remember that sulfur, zinc and other micronutrients are needed in the right ratio for optimum performance and to push yields to a higher level. We know that phosphorus and sulfur increase nitrogen uptake efficiency and zinc improves phosphorus uptake,” he adds. 

MicroEssentials SZ is a product designed as a fertilizer source that provides a balanced approach to crop nutrition. Created using patented Fusion™ technology to combine four key crop nutrients in one granule, MicroEssentials contains nitrogen, phosphorus, sulfur and zinc in the ratio best suited to crop needs.

“As farmers experiment with different ways to capitalize on the yield potential of today’s hybrids and benefit from the attractive price of corn, they may want to take a closer look at their fertility programs and consider what they may be able to achieve with the high-yield systems approach,” concludes Froehlich. 

A regular program of soil tests, in conjunction with crop removal rates, crop yield history and future yield goals, can help growers zero in on the right fertilizer rates needed to consistently drive higher yields.

To listen to Dan Froehlich’s full interview addressing the results of the high-yield systems approach, visit www.MicroEssentials.com.

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