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Targeting the 300-bushel barrier

Jeff Caldwell 02/23/2011 @ 10:54am Multimedia Editor for Agriculture.com and Successful Farming magazine.

This year, Doug Martin's got a new goal on his central Illinois farm. He's already forward-sold some of his 2011 corn crop, so raising a good-sized crop will mean a decent-sized profit if everything works out.

Beyond that, he's devoting a few fields to testing what he can do to reach the 300-bushels-per-acre mark.

"We will be making the plan for nitrogen, fertilizer, fungicide application and seeding recommendations to take that first step toward the magical 300-bushel level," Martin, a Crop Tech Tour correspondent, says on his blog. "One of the problems that I see with trying to get to that level is a lot of the practices used are not economical or applicable for a lot of today's larger-scale farms. Sometimes the best formula includes several trips across a field for nitrogen or multiple aerial product applications. Not knowing how these will effect the crop keeps a lot of farmers from experimenting with different practices."

A "high technology package" can help put that 300-bushel goal within reach, says University of Illinois crop physiologist Fred Below. There are 5 main components to that system.

"Single production factors cannot guarantee high corn yields, but rather it is the positive interaction among multiple factors that gives farmers the greatest opportunity to grow 300 bushels/acre," Below says.

Below's 5 factors are:

  1. Improved soil fertility through "well-placed applications" of phosphorous;
  2. The use of triple-stacked hybrids (including herbicide tolerance as well as corn borer and rootworm resistance);
  3. An extra 100 pounds/acre of sidedressed nitrogen;
  4. Higher plant populations (up to 45,00 plants per acre), especially in twin-row systems;
  5. Applying a foliar fungicide at flowering "to control leaf disease and to relieve plant stress," Below says.

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