We asked farmers which ag practices and ideas paid off for them in 2013. From narrow rows in corn to cover crops to nutrient management, growers sounded off about the new things they tried with success last year.

Bruce Rohwer, Paullina, Iowa

I’ve planted 15-inch-row beans for almost a decade, so I didn’t need much equipment to try 15-inch corn. I added corn meters on the front boxes of the planter and changed my corn head.

It’s been a learning experience. I planted no-till to save as much moisture as possible and that presented a challenge with 15-inch rows. The front trash whippers removed the residue but the rear trash whippers returned it.

The cleared back rows ended up planted into the strip where I had knifed in hog manure.

In a warmer year, the front row plants might have caught up, but 2013 was one of our coolest years to establish a crop, and I ended up with two different germination dates.

I still made normal yields so it wasn’t a disaster. It left me encouraged that 15s will do very well if I iron out the management bugs. I’ll try 15-inch rows again – I’ll plant from 36,000 to 50,000 per acre in 2014 to find the optimal population for 15 inch spacing.

 

John Werries, Chapin, Ill.

We are so enthused about cover crops. We think they have paid off this year.

We went to several conferences and did a lot of study. Everyone tells you to start small, but we bought a 40-foot air seeder and air cart, and we sowed all 3,800 acres. 

Annual rye grass was about $7.50 per acre at the most so it didn’t take too many bushels of corn to pay for seed.

Last spring was very wet here, but with the cover crop we had very little erosion, and the cover crop really sequestered the nitrogen left in the ground by the dry weather in 2012.

We strip-till corn-on-corn, and residue is an issue, but by harvest time the microbial and earthworm activity left us with very little residue. We also had an agronomist taking nitrate samples down to the two-foot level, and he found no compaction layers in our soils.

Our yields were extremely good – 234 bushels per acre for the whole farm average.

 

Mike Shuter, Frankton, Ind.

We try to get to the point where we can manage nutrients as efficiently as possible. We put together a 24-row system that feeds variable rates of P, K and micronutrients based off our soil tests.

You have to research to find the components that work best together, then find a dealer for them.

We had to bring three different companies together to get the equipment we wanted. We used a Stinger toolbar from Misenhelder Welding, and we used one tripper row of units for the strip-till component of the bar.

We used a Salford three-hopper aircart, and controlled delivery with Ag Leader Integra monitors with scales on each hopper to further verify our applications. You also need to have access to at least a three-hopper tender truck to keep operating efficiently.

It’s been fairly pricey, but I think it will pay for itself pretty quickly. It gives us more precision with the fertilizer and lets us run faster than the 24-unit we had.