Soybean yield contest winners spill secrets about what they do to garner record yields, including: variety selection, good start to the cropping season, fertility (including micronutrients) and scouting.
Aaron Lee has a simple, 1-page form he checks at least weekly for a quick glance of his farm's financial situation. The Salem, Ind., fifth-generation corn and soybean farmer at Cornerstone Family Farms, says the "financial dashboard" keeps the farm on track, especially in today's tightening margin environment.
Terry Aukes knows his soybean seed. He evaluates soybean seed both personally as a farmer and professionally as seed department manager at Farmers Elevator Cooperative, in Larchwood, Iowa. “Match your choices to your toughest areas, and extract what you can in yield," he says. "There is so much germplasm available to consider, and your choice should help you maximize each field's return on investment. There is so much yield variability, even among similar maturities.”
Marion Calmer has done independent, on-farm research for nearly 30 years. With more than 300 research plots on his farm, the Alpha, Ill., corn and soybean farmer has tested – and continues to test – practices to break through his soybean-yield barrier. Five have risen to the top. “You can't improve on things you don't measure,” he says.
It came as no surprise to Tim Mundorf last fall that many post-harvest corn stalk test samples contained high levels of nitrogen (N). The field representative for Midwest Laboratories in Omaha, Neb., says dry weather and poor yields are reminders of how much N can go unused by corn plants in a drought. The lesson to be learned is that you should test under all conditions as part of a long-term, successful N management plan.
A fresh look at preplant soybean management strategies may offer more yield potential. The top two student teams in last year's Illinois Soybean Association (ISA) yield challenge harvested a few more bushels by stressing root health and amending the soil.
Global changes in 2050 may come more quickly and urgently and expand exponentially. That's the assessment of Scott Aughenbaugh, fellow, Seven Revolutions Project at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, Washington, D.C. Agriculture could play a pivotal role within what he calls the seven drivers of change, he says.
If you’ve gotten into the habit of using foliar fungicides in corn simply to boost plant health and yields, you may want to reconsider. Research by Midwest university crop specialists confirms disease risk conditions should be the overriding reason to evaluate the costs and benefits associated with any corn fungicide applications.
Chris Hayes never thought just one of nine in the next generation would want to return to farm. Or that the one would be a teacher who lacks farming experience. But he wants to see the Nebraska grain operation and feedlot he owns with his two brothers continue into the next generation. What he has learned as part of the estate planning process is that he must be open to outside-the-box ideas about how that can occur.
Roy Wendte, a farmer from Altamont, Ill., remembers the first spreadsheet program, Visicalc, from 1982. His University of Illinois master's thesis at that time focused on crop-production software. He’s built his own spreadsheets ever since then for budgets, crop production and yield analysis. “I don’t know how a producer could track of all of the farm data without spreadsheets’ immense time savings and analysis of 'what if' scenarios,” he says.
The recent drought in half a century was a reminder that market moves in all directions make it prudent to arm your business to ride through any price scenario. Efficient use of data has bullet-proofed Nick Frey’s farm business. "Data make you a better farm manager," says the fifth-generation farmer with WCI Family Farms in Linden, Ind. Frey attributes his knack for using data effectively to his Purdue farm management degree.
The latest findings in Fred Below's 25-year research quest to achieve a consistent 300-bu. corn crop focus on a combo of precision fertility and racehorse hybrids."We also have developed a way to identify these so-called racehorse hybrids that respond to high-yield management," says the University of Illinois plant physiologist. How to move your corn yields towards 300 bu., according to Below.
Nick Constant decided to try foliar micronutrient applications on the family's corn and soybeans five years ago after seeing company field trials near their Williamsville, Ill., farm show that they might pick up a few bushels.
Just as E15 finally cleared federal regulatory hurdles, the confluence of no blender tax credits, high corn prices and widespread drought has put the ethanol market in jeopardy. And questions abound regarding possible government changes to the current Renewable Fuel Standard.
All good things come to an end. To prepare for the eventual end of commodity grain glory days, your best move may be to run the numbers through available decision-making tools and evaluate options to reduce high-rent hangovers.