The results of the 9th annual No-Till Operational Benchmark Study are in, and as usual, we sorted the data by corn yield to see how the growers with yields in the top third differed from the rest of the survey.

While you can read how this group compared to the overall benchmark results in the Spring edition of Conservation Tillage Guide (see page 36 or click here), I went back through the data and teased out some additional details we didn’t get to include in the article. Here are six interesting tidbits about the highest-yielding corn no-tillers of 2016.

1. They’ve been no-tilling longer. The top-third yielders — who hit an average yield of 209.5 bushels per acre, nearly 39 bushels higher than the overall study average of 170.8 — have been no-tilling longer than the average no-tiller. Just over 62% of this group has been no-tilling for at least 16 years, compared to 58.7%, and 42.8% of the group has been no-tilling for over 25 years, compared to 31.8%. And in addition to no-tilling longer…

2. They no-till their corn. The percent of corn no-tilled for the top third averaged 81%, while the percent of corn no-tilled for the whole survey was just 67%.

3. They seed cover crops. This wasn’t drastically different from the overall survey results — 78% of top corn yielders said they seeded covers in 2016, just 1.2 points above the entire survey — but I think this shows they don’t feel cover crops are hurting their yields. In fact, they may be helping them.

4. They plant corn hybrids that protect against pests. In terms of seed choice, the big difference between the top third yielders and the overall study is that 50.6% of the high corn yielders will plant a hybrid with a corn rootworm (CRW) trait in 2017, compared to 38.3% of all respondents, and 55.4% of top yielders will use an eastern corn borer (ECB) trait, vs. 46.5%.

5. They use more crop protection products. While the majority of no-tillers reported not using fungicides and insecticides, there were more top yielders using these products than average no-tillers. Just over 35% of top yielders applied a fungicide to their corn in 2016 compared to 24.5% of all no-tillers, while 29.8% applied insecticides, almost 6 points above the 23% of overall survey takers.

6. They apply manure. Just over half — 51.3% — of the top yielders applied manure to their fields in 2016, compared to 43.9% for the overall survey. Of those who applied manure, 61.5% used cattle manure, 30.8% used hog manure at 30.8%, 23.1% applied poultry litter and 3.8% used another manure source.

To learn more about the top-third corn yielders, or the top-third soybean yielders, see the article, “No-Tillers Hit New Yield Records Across the Board.” To find all of the benchmark survey results, check out the April 2017 issue of Conservation Tillage Guide.