Fred Below, University of Illinois plant physiologist and innovator in his quest to achieve the elusive 300-bushel corn, enlightened the crowd with his presentation on “The Quest for 300 bushel corn.”

Before he launched into his Seven wonders of the corn world, he talked about the crucial prerequisites to an optimized corn crop – proper drainage, pest and weed control, and proper soil pH with adequate P & K based on soil tests.

His 7 wonders of the corn world:

1.     Weather – value is 70+ bushels/acre.

2.     Nitrogen – 70 bu/acre.

3.     Hybrid – 50 bu/acre.

4.     Previous crop – 25 bu/acre.

5.     Plant population – 20 bu/acre.

6.     Tillage – 15 bu/acre.

7.     Growth regulators – 10 bu/acre.

Below encouraged growers to optimize each of the seven wonders and their positive interactions. The audience was facinated by the N, P and micronutrient uptake at different growth stages, as well as what amounts went into different parts of the plant. He also compared the results of a traditional corn management system with a high tech package over the last few years in Illinois.

He concluded by emphasizing a systems approach is needed that combines individual practices known to impact productivity. High yield must be planned from the beginning because the weather drives yields. And increasing plant population may be the foundation for pushing higher corn yields, but higher populations must be managed with the proper hybrid, fed with the right balance of nutrients and protected from stresses.

To learn more, view his presentation (pdf).