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9 steps to higher yields

Gil Gullickson Updated: 02/04/2013 @ 1:33pm Crops Technology Editor for Successful Farming magazine/Agriculture.com

Finding a diamond in the rough sums up 2012 for Wally Linneweber, who farms with his son, Kyle, and his brother, Joe, near Vincennes, Indiana. Although last year's drought-scorched corn yields across their farm averaged 104 bushels per acre (far below their normal 220-bushel yields), in the midst of this was a field that dazzled like a gleaming diamond. Yields tallied 260 bushels per acre. It was part of a Beck 300 Challenge, a program by Beck's Hybrids in which farmers use a number of strategies to crack the 300-bushel mark. Although this was tough to do in 2012, hitting the 260-bushel level came close.

Linneweber notes that this diamond of a field didn't need all that much polishing. “Good dirt” helped them hit the 260-bushel mark. High soil organic matter and the field's lower topography helped it retain water – a key attribute in a drought year.

“That field always has been more consistent in yields than other fields,” he says.

Granted, a year like 2012 will thwart the best of plans. “On sandier ground, we had corn yields that went down to 20 bushels per acre,” he says.

Still, the selective use of technology enables the Linnewebers to take advantage of soils rich in organic matter and to make the best out of less-productive soils year after year. It's helped them to place several times in the National Corn Growers Association (NCGA) contest, including a 2007 win with a dryland yield of 292 bushels per acre. Here's a look at nine steps they take.

1. Pick the racehorses

“When we pick hybrids, we go for the racehorses,” says Linneweber. They feel these fast-growing hybrids have the top yield potential.

“Sometimes, it hurts us,” says Linneweber. “Greensnap can be a problem, but that's where crop insurance comes in.”

Most of the time, though, racehorse hybrids beat other hybrids hands down, he says.

They cautiously eye new hybrids that take the place of older ones. “Sometimes, they aren't the best,” he notes.

That's why they start out gradually with a new hybrid. “Overall, we like a new corn hybrid to prove itself before we plant it to more acres across the entire farm,” he says.

2. Inject manure

To a corn plant, hog manure mimics a spiral cut ham basted in a heavenly honey sauce. That's why the Linnewebers inject 4 million gallons from their hog operation annually on corn. Injections are split between spring and fall.

“It used to be a liability, but now manure is an asset,” says Linneweber. “We've noticed that most of the winners in the NCGA contest use some type of manure. That tells the story.”

They also apply turkey manure valued at $40- to $50 to corn. Hog and turkey manure rates hinge on soil needs and manure content. Manure from hog-finishing units has a higher nutrient content than that from farrowing operations.

They follow up manure applications with preplant and sidedressed anhydrous ammonia applications. They normally sidedress anhydrous ammonia at the V4 to V5 growth stages.

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