Below stresses that banded fertility must go hand-in-hand with choosing the right racehorse hybrids that can handle higher plant populations, perhaps up to 45,000/acre. to reach 300 bu.

He screens an array of commercial hybrids for two factors – tolerance to high plant density and N use. He grows each hybrid at 32,000 and 45,000/acre and feeds them 0, 60 and 240 lbs. N. In general, he says racehorse hybrids are the ones that can handle higher densities and that thrive on extra N.

"Hybrids change over quickly, and as soon as we determine the best hybrids, they may leave a company's lineup. Related hybrids from the same families under high management systems tend to perform similarly," he says. "We are working with seed companies to access hybrids sooner or even before commercial release so we can identify them quickly."

Some examples of racehorse hybrids that have been successful in Below's trials include DKC62-97VT3P, DKC63-84VT3, N68A-3000GT, P1184XR and Croplan7505VT3.

Below also evaluates different row configurations and spacings in his high-density trials. While the results from his twin-row research have been disappointing, he is still testing 20-in. rows.

"Twin rows do not work as well with higher populations, especially where summers are very warm. You would need to use heat-tolerant hybrids, or only plant in more moderate climates," he says. "If you only change row configuration or spacing and do not adjust for hybrid or fertility, you will be disappointed. You can't just change one management factor," Below says.

He encourages farmers to try their own banded fertility and high-density racehorse plantings. "Take advantage of synergies. You may not get 300-bu. corn, but 250 bu. are possible," he says. "Gaining the last 50 bu. will require you to also reduce plant stresses. You must plan for high yields and commit to the system to make it work."