In Search of High-Yielding Corn

Yield-winning corn growers Randy Dowdy and David Hula share practices that may help maximize corn production and fertility investments.

Nearly every grower would like more grain in the bin at harvest, and for most there’s always a burning question at the end of the season — did they leave something on the table?

From the local coffee shop to Facebook press events to all-encompassing field days, there’s more attention than ever being paid to optimizing yields, and the big names involved are often the same.

At its annual field day last July, Ag PhD hosted “First Step Plot” at its campus in Baltic, S.D., and invited prolific corn growers David Hula, Randy Dowdy and Steve Albracht to design high-yielding corn programs in unfamiliar soils and weather conditions.

Brian and Darren Hefty and agronomist Rob Fritz of Ag PhD also participated in the plot work. Top soybean and wheat farmers were also invited.

The six participants approached their planting and fertility programs many different ways, trying out experimental biologicals, sea minerals, sugar, liquid carbon, fulvic and humic acids and other products along with the typical fungicides, seed treatments and dry fertilizers.

The corn plots were corn-on-corn, and some tillage was necessary beforehand to clean up some drainage issues and clumps of soil with stalks. Ag PhD research lead Glenn Herz was in constant communication with the corn growers as they managed their plots through the growing season.

“They made adjustments on our soils and soil tests, and some of them did multiple soil tests,” Darren Hefty says. “What I learned is those guys work harder than just about everybody else…

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John dobberstein2

John Dobberstein

John Dobberstein is senior editor of No-Till Farmer magazine and the e-newsletter Dryland No-TillerHe previously covered agriculture for the Tulsa World and worked for daily newspapers in Chicago, Milwaukee and St. Joseph, Mich. He graduated with a B.A. in journalism and political science from Central Michigan University.

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