What is in this article?:
Top-yielding no-till winners share these approaches to 300+-bushel corn yields:
- Rotate with soybeans
- Select hybrids for early vigor in no-till conditions.
- Scout for early season insects
- Optimize fertility and application timing, including micronutrients and fungicides.
For Gene Steiger, “awesome” barely describes how he felt watching his yield monitor top 300 bushels per acre on his 2013 no-till NCGA corn yield-contest plot. “When you are picking that, after trying for so many years, you smile from ear to ear,” adds Steiger, who farms near Bloomington, Wis.
Steiger topped the 2013 NCGA yield contest in the AA No-Till/Strip-Till Non-Irrigated division with 315 bushels per acre. His wife Betty won the state non-irrigated conventional division with 322 bushels per acre.
Bob Little, Hebron, Ind., who won in 2012 with 297 bushels per acre, also topped 300 for the first time in 2013. A plot entered with his wife Kathyled Indiana in the no-till/strip-till division with 313.4 bushels per acre.
Mike Scholting, Louisville, Neb., who won the 2011 Class A No-Till/Strip-Till Non-Irrigated Division with 293.6 bushels per acre, yielded 275 in 2013 because of late-season dry weather.
A winning contest yield is a team effort built on agronomists’ and input suppliers’ advice, Steiger says.
That includes a hybrid selected for Steiger’s soil types, a beefed-up fertility program with micronutrients, humic acids and plant-growth regulators, plus extra insect and disease protection. In 2013, his winning hybrid – Dekalb DKC63-33RIB – was planted at 42,000-44,000 seeds per acre, about 4,000 higher than non-contest fields.
Steiger’s contest plots are rotated from soybeans, grid soil sampled, limed as needed and fertilized for a 325-bushel yield goal. P and K (110 pounds per acre and 130 pounds per acre, respectively) are split-applied in the fall and spring. Nitrogen applications total about 280 pounds per acre, with the majority split-applied as stabilized urea ammonium nitrate in early spring, with a second UAN application ahead of the planter. Planter applications include a 9-18-8 starter with added sulfur, zinc, humic acids and trace elements, plus a liquid soil insecticide.
At about the fifth-leaf stage, Steiger’s tissue samples evaluate the crop’s nutrient status. Based on results, he follows with a mix that includes a postemergence herbicide, a fungicide, a growth regulator, zinc, manganese and boron. At tasseling, plots are treated again with a fungicide and micronutrients.
“The thing I can’t emphasize enough is a balanced fertility program of nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium, plus micronutrients,” says Steiger.
Although the rest of his corn isn’t pampered as much as contest plots, micronutrients and fungicides are applied on most corn acres, based on past contest plot performance. “These practices are worth an extra 25-30 bushels per acre,” he says.