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5 Ways to Boost Your Yields

Ever wonder how to break though yield barriers? Or maybe tweak your crop rotation to make sure it’s firing on all cylinders? How about another crop to break up pest cycles in corn and soybeans? Here are five tips from top farmers who attended a recent Commodity Classic. 

1. Plant soybeans early.

A warm winter may give Midwestern farmers the idea to pull out their planters in March. Early planting is good, but that’s still way too early. 

Still, you may be able to plant soybeans earlier than you think. Dan Arkels of Peru, Illinois, has planted soybeans in northern Illinois as early as April 17. That’s two weeks earlier than what is considered normal in that area.

Planting soybeans by that date – protected from early-season stressors by a seed treatment – gets plants off to an early start in soaking up sunshine and churning out photosynthesis.

“The faster you can get to the point where the plant is blossoming by June 21 [summer solstice], the better off you will be,” he says. In the case of the April 17 planting, he says plants were setting blossoms by June 9.

Just don’t go overboard. “I would not plant earlier than April 15 in my area,” Arkels says. 

2. Scout, scout, scout.

During the growing season, Zack Rendel of Miami, Oklahoma, checks his fields several times a week. A drone is a tool that enables him to do this. “It can warn me if something bad is going on in the field,” he says. 

Still, he says a drone is no substitute for getting out and walking fields. “There are some things that I can’t see with a drone, so I still need to get boots on the ground,” he says. 

3. Plant on-farm test plots the right way.

Perry Galloway of Gregory, Arkansas, has lots of on-farm test plots on his farm. They enable him to evaluate products touted by companies for performance. 

He does it on one condition, though. “If I do it, companies have to be there. I have a lot to do during test-plot establishment,” he says. 

Company reps who assist during this busy time can help ensure the test plot is established correctly so it can yield accurate results.

“One way I learn is by side-by-side evaluations  with different products,” says Arkels. 

4. Feed your corn several times.

“I am a firm believer in multiple applications of nitrogen on corn – and not a lot at one time,” says Arkels. “I get the most bang for my nitrogen dollar that way.”

Arkels applies liquid UAN preplant, sidedresses nitrogen up to V8 corn, and then often comes back with a foliar application later in the season. 

5. Scrutinize your crop mix.

Low corn prices are making sorghum viable again in some areas. “A lot of people consider sorghum the red-headed stepchild of crops,” says Rendel. “They just put it out and go.”

Managed properly, though, grain sorghum can play a valuable role in a crop rotation. It’s particularly important to manage it through sugarcane aphid outbreaks with an insecticide, he says. 

“Sorghum is very similar to corn in how you treat it,” he says. “If there’s a drought in mid-August, it will push through and yield. It is a drought-tolerant crop.”

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