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Getting the most out of every acre

By Matt Reese

The cost of land, seed, equipment and, well, pretty much everything else involved with the production of corn and soybeans, is up — way up. So, this year, rather than focus on expensive, and risky, expansion, Gary Wolfe is planning on focusing on maximizing production with what he already has.

Wolfe is a third generation farmer who farms with his dad and brother, while also working off the farm. They have a corn, soybean and wheat rotation on the Wyandot County farm and have been working to get the most out of every acre.

“It is next to impossible to try to obtain more farmland right now,” Wolfe said.  “We’re trying to make the most production we

Gary Wolfe

can out of the acres we have.”

With this philosophy in mind, Wolfe’s unexpected entry into the Beck 300 Challenge in 2012 fit right in. The family was nearing the end of the planting season, but one of their best fields was not off to a good start, so they made the decision to replant.

“We were a little short on seed, so I called a local dealer and he was able to provide me with corn in a very short period of time. We were impressed with the results,” Wolfe said.

The field was replanted in late May with Beck’s 6077HR at 34,000 population and was among the last fields of corn planted in the area.

“We planted the first time in the first week of May and it just did not come up the way we wanted it to and then we re-planted on May 22. That was the best thing that could have happened for it. It missed the worst heat of the summer at the end of July for tasseling and pollination,” he said. “It was lagging behind just enough to get through some of that heat and then it caught a couple of rains in July where a lot of other stuff didn’t get it. That field got an inch of rain when a mile north got a tenth. That made a huge difference. It caught some rains in August too and it got what it needed. Everything north of it didn’t get rain. There was some luck to this in that field.”

While luck was certainly involved, Wolfe stepped up management to capitalize on the good fortune. The crop had 225 pounds of nitrogen, 70 pounds of phosphorus, 90 pounds of potassium, 10 pounds of sulfur and five pounds of zinc.

“We use a disk ripper in the fall and a field cultivator in the spring before planting it. We put on 15 gallons of 28% two-by-two at planting and added Cinch ATZ and Resolve Q. We put some insecticide on at the same time. I think the insecticide was a benefit, how much though, I don’t know,” he said. “There were no disease problems showing up that I saw, but we did put some Quadris on at V5 to V7. Then we sidedressed with another 50 gallons per acre of 28%. We let it go until it started tasseling and came in with the airplane and applied Quilt and some Warrior. We did not do this on most of crops. And, when I sidedressed, I had a little more N in the contest field. Otherwise we did not do much differently.”

From there, luck took over.

“In our area, there were bands of good, better and bad across our county. The farther north of 30 you went it got worse and worse. It was extremely challenging with rain conditions and heat,” Wolfe said. “We had a lot of corn that was in the 140-bushel range and a lot of corn close to the 100-bushel range depending on where it was. We watched this field all year and we knew it was going to be good. But two miles to the north of it was horrendous.”

After entering the field in the competition, Wolfe selected the best spot to harvest and was shocked at his 291.4-bushel entry, which was the highest in the five state region of the Beck 300 Challenge.

“I think a lot of people get confused when they see these things. It is not a whole field average it is just a spot,” he said.  “We were anticipating that field because we knew it would be better. We could hardly wait to get in it. The yield monitor was up over 300 a couple of times. We could pick out the place in the field and we had to go so many feet and then they calculate the yield based on that. That is normally a good field anyway. It normally is in the ballpark of the 180- to 200-bushel range anyway, but 218 is the best average I’ve ever had in that field. The 40-acre field averaged 218 and the next best field we had was probably 159 bushels. We had several fields average below 115. A field two miles directly north of that field yielded 104 bushels per acre.”

While they were excited to harvest the field, they had to wait until the end of the season to get to it.

“That was the last field we shelled. We had gone into it two weeks prior and the moisture was still too high. When we did it was still 22% or 23% moisture,” he said. “It hung on and it was healthy all through August. It stayed green a lot longer and we knew it would come off late. It was in early November when we finally got into it.”

So, what made the biggest difference in the field?

“The biggest difference was the rain in that field. I think the other biggest difference was from the Quilt from the airplane. The plant health was better. It seems to help it stay greener longer. Stalks were staying stronger too,” he said. “This year I am doing the V5 to V7 fungicide application again and I am going to be more aggressive with the Quilt from the airplane this year. I learned a lot about how much we could push with fertilizers and fungicides. We’re going to tweak the program a little for our corn this year. We’re going to try some more zinc and keep using the side-by-side setting at planting. The biggest change will be with our in-row pop-up fertilizer on the seed and the airplane putting on Quilt. We’re also going to try and lower our soybean seed population and get more aggressive with fungicides and foliar feeding there too.”

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