While achieving average corn yields of 300 bushels per acre (BPA) isn’t typical, it is possible for today’s most progressive growers.
In fact, AgriGold Agronomy Manager, Mike Kavanaugh, and Regional Agronomist, Josh Johnston, have experienced it on multiple occasions through customer fields and research plots.
“High yielding corn is the result and reward of constant planning, implementation and management. It also requires the right attitude and willingness to work through the challenges of changing production practices. Many growers want high yields, but are not willing to adapt and change,” said Kavanaugh.
“High yielding corn is similar to a baton race,” says Johnston “Step one hands over to step two, step two to step three and so on. Each next step needs to be there and ready when the proper time comes!”
Those who are seeking ways to develop a roadmap to higher yields should start by paying attention to these eight critical steps:
- Select the right fields and soils. Kavanaugh suggests starting with two fields that include some of your highest yielding soils.
- Eliminate soil compaction. While 300 BPA corn can be achieved in any tillage situation, it’s important to rid soils of compaction. This includes making sure the seed zone is free of compression from down pressure or closing wheels during planting.
- Identify drainage and irrigation needs. Corn must have good drainage to hit on all cylinders throughout the season. It also needs an adequate water supply. Finding the right balance with water is key to top plant performance.
- Keep soil fertility high yet balanced. Growers who produce 300 BPA on a large scale have a solid fertility plan. Make sure soil pH and nutrients are in line on soil tests and removal rates support high-performing crops. If close to animal production, seek out manure to utilize as part of your plan. Consider collecting weekly tissue samples as a measurement of which nutrients are making it into the plant and as a guide or roadmap for next year.
- Choose proper genetics and traits. Understand the different environments across your farm and choose seed packages that fit. Always protect with good, solid seed treatment.
- Strive for even emergence. This means getting the depth and spacing right. Generally, 2-inch planting depth is a good rule of thumb along with planting corn into a warming trend of four to six days. This allows plants to emerge at the same time, grow together throughout the season and maximize ear development on every plant.
- Spoon feed the crop. Build on your high-fertility foundation with starter fertilizer. Utilize in-furrow, 2×2 or even 2x2x2 systems accordingly. Understand how nitrogen works in the soil. Use sidedress and fertigation techniques. Consider Y dropping throughout the season to deliver nitrogen, sulfur, zinc, boron and other nutrients at appropriate times.
- Utilize foliar fungicides. These are essential to the equation for high yielding corn. In these types of yield environments, three applications are recommended; V10, post pollination and R3-4. This strategy will add days to the grain fill period which will lead to higher yields and test weight. The type of fungicide is also critical so consult with your dealer to determine the most efficient products.
Two final tips for success include using tools like Advantage Acre® to navigate weather and building an expert team.