What is in this article?:
- No-till corn yield contest winners share tips for 300-bushel corn
- Slow planting, early harvest
- A lot of nitrogen
- Mix of no-till, minimum-till
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.
Mix of no-till, minimum-till
Gene Steiger, Bob Little and Mike Scholting combine no-till and minimum-till management systems to cope with differing soils and crop rotations.
Steiger, whose Wisconsin farm is two-thirds corn, no-tills about 20% of his corn acreage – all rotated from soybeans or sod.
“With corn on corn, we were losing about 10 bushels per acre with no-till when we compared it to minimum-till,” says Steiger. “On bean stubble or sod, yields are about even.”
Whether minimum till or no-till, most management practices are the same on rotated corn. Exceptions include cool springs, when he holds off planting no-till fields until soils warm up. He selects hybrids for early vigor for no-till and carefully scouts early season insects. He also broadcasts phosphorus and potassium on no-till fields in both fall and spring.
“The secret of no-till is to get the P and K on in the fall, and then come in again just ahead of the planter,” he says. “My theory is that you get two different fertility layers, so it is not all on top of the ground.”
Little grows two-thirds corn and a third beans on his Indiana farm. About half his ground is no-tilled, and rest minimum-tilled, depending on the year. Bean stubble is no-tilled into corn. He also no-tills corn on corn in his less productive fields, where reduced crop residue makes that practical. But in his most productive fields, he uses a minimum tillage program to manage larger amounts of crop residue.
Following a 240+-bushel corn crop, he has trouble dealing with crop residue from the crop. “I have tried to no-till in that situation and it doesn’t yield as well.”
Except for tillage, management practices vary little between no-till or minimum-till continuous corn. On continuous no-till fields, he uses liquid nitrogen fertilizer instead of anhydrous ammonia, which he believes hurts worm populations. He also is extra careful to minimize in-field traffic to reduce compaction potential.
Scholting’s eastern Nebraska farm is wall-to-wall rotated no-till corn and soybeans – except for his river bottom NCGA contest field. With the exception of his contest plot, which is no-tilled into soybean stubble, the field is minimum-tilled continuous corn.. “Without working that residue up a bit, I can’t get as good a stand as I’d like,” he says. “Yield is off at least 10 to 15%when I have used no-till.”
On the rest of his farm, no-till is king. “On rotated ground, no-till is far better than minimum tillage,” he says. “We are all about saving moisture, reducing erosion and higher yields from no-till,” Scholting says.
No-till and minimum-till corn are managed roughly the same, except for the added inputs needed for corn on corn. Corn-on-corn enhancements include extra nitrogen and phosphorus, plus a soil insecticide.