David Wolfskill has concluded that increasing applications of major nutrient on his soils may not be the answer to higher yields. So, in his quest for higher productivity, he is testing non-traditional products that he hopes could unlock more yield potential.
In 2013, he tested BioForce, a root-growth stimulator in side-by-side trials. Wolfskill concluded that it increased hairy roots by 30 to 50%. Yield was up 6 bushels per acre.
“One thing we all know, after a point, more N, P and K does not make more corn,” he says. “We are at the limit. Knowing that, we are going to foliar feeds, root stimulants and growth stimulants to see what works. We are just getting into these biologicals. We ran various products across all our corn and soybean acres in 2013. And we verify that these products work.”
David Wolfskill tears down and rebuilds his planter every winter to make sure it operates at its best. He’s added spiked row cleaners and spiked closing wheels with square-link drag chains to boost its no-till performance.
Whether planting, fertilizing or controlling weeds and other pests, Wolfskill’s overarching goal is to eliminate stresses that limit yield.
“For the most part, corn hybrids have 400 bushels per acre of yield potential in the bag,” he says. “You need to isolate and remove stresses”
He pays special attention to reducing stress from insects and diseases. He applies a half rate of a granular corn soil insecticide on all corn acres at planting, and follows with an over-the-top insecticide for grubs and cutworms. He uses fungicides selectively, depending on weather conditions conducive to diseases.
“We do not want to get in a rescue mode,” he says. “We know we could have problems with grubs or cutworms.” Once you see a problem, , the damage is already done, he says.
Wolfskill relies on manure from his 300-cow dairy herd to supply all P and K, , plus significant N. When fertilizing for a 300-bushel per acre yield goal, he supplements manure with 150 pounds of stabilized N applied as urea ammonium nitrate along with sulfur. He supplements with zinc in-furrow at planting to combat nutrient tie-up.
“I see a 20 bushels/acre yield boost from manure versus commercial fertilizer. You have so many micronutrients and trace elements in manure that you aren’t going to get in a commercial fertilizer.”