Fred Below

Practices for big corn yields highlighted at OABA Industry Conference

By Matt Reese

The Ohio AgriBusiness Association Industry Conference always features a diverse and interesting program and this year is certainly no exception. Thursday’s topics included an overview of the state’s livestock industries, a look at global grain markets, and regulations, just to name a few. Among the more popular presentations was the topic of striving for high corn yields with Fred Below from the University of Illinois.

“I talked about my seven wonders of the corn yield world. These are the management factors that each impact yield. This is not rocket science. I talked about how important weather is and how weather interacts with nitrogen, about getting the hybrid selection right, managing the rotation, and plant population. The plant population is a big factor that has changed and has to change in order to grow higher yields — narrower rows and more plants. Finally I try to put it together in a systems approach. When you combine management factors they do work together as a team to increase yields,” Below said. “We try to determine the value of each player. I summarized our research over 6 years and we see a common theme. The factors that play the largest role are fertility, narrow-row spacing and plant population. It is all about feeding and managing more plants.”

Below said in a favorable year, weather and nitrogen combine to contribute more than 50% of total yield. On average, he has found the maximum response to nitrogen over an unfertilized check plot treatment is approximately 70 bushels per acre.

As other management improvements are made, Below said the plant population must increase as well to achieve higher yields. This requires more management, however, and depends heavily upon weather conditions for success.

Below also pointed out other factors that can be implemented on farms with a typically big bang for the buck.

“One of the things growers could do alone is use fungicide. Some years fungicides have a huge increase in yield,” he said. “We often see the fullest relative maturity for the region gives us the highest yield, especially if they plant early. This is an easy thing to try and it doesn’t cost more.”

Stepping up management can have a particularly significant impact in more challenging soil types.

“I want to point out that if your soil is more challenging then you have to be a better farmer. Ohio’s farmers are probably better farmers because they have to manage the crops based on the soils they have,” Below said. “Their opportunity to increase yields on a relative basis is actually going to be greater than what we have in Illinois with our soil types.”

The Friday program for the OABA event includes consumer relation efforts, equipment hazards and safety, technology updates, herbicide challenges, and edge of field management. Stay tuned for more.


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