Every year, No-Till Farmer surveys its readers for its annual benchmark study to learn about their practices and results. And every year we like to tease out the data of those who are yielding above and beyond the average-yielding survey taker to see what they’re doing that’s different from everyone else.
I took a look over the last 3 years’ worth of data to see if there were any consistent results among the group of high-yielding corn growers — whose yields have been at least 20% higher than the average no-tiller — that may be worth paying attention to. Here’s what I found:
1. Location matters. In the last 3 years, Nebraska has had the most no-tillers among the top 20 highest-yielding corn growers in the survey. Pennsylvania has also had several no-tillers hit some of the highest yields.
2. They have higher farm expenses. Unsurprisingly, those growing higher corn yields have consistently spent at least 12% more per acre than the average no-till corn grower. From 2013-15, they spent an average $407.11, $439.59 and $455.28 per acre, respectively.
3. They plant higher populations. The high-yielding corn growers have had a higher seeding rate than the average no-tiller. While the average no-tillers are seeding around 31,000 seeds per acre, the high-yielding corn growers are pushing towards 33,000.
4. They apply fungicides. Compared to the typical no-tiller, the high-yielding corn group has always used more fungicides on corn, with at least 40% of them applying fungicides over the last 3 years. Only about a third of the average-yielding no-tillers applied fungicides in that timespan.
5. They invest in precision technology. From down pressure control to variable-rate seeding and fertilizer application, the top third corn growers have consistently used more precision technology than the average no-tiller.
You can learn more about the practices of the top-third corn growers from 2015 in the article, “No-Till Soybeans Set Yield Record, Corn Remains Steady” from the Spring edition of Conservation Tillage Guide. To find all of the previous benchmark survey results, select the May issues of every year back to 2009 in the drop-down list on the Current Issue page.