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Experimentation key to doing well in high-yield contests

Experimentation key to doing well in high-yield contests

Corn in mid-July

Corn tassels on one of the Paula and Tom Peterson farm fields near Waverly, Neb.

Mountain Dew may not be the first product that comes to mind when increasing yield, but Chris Lindner has heard it all. The Keokuk, Iowa, farmer is willing to listen to just about any idea to build yields, no matter how unique.

Lindner, who farms in Iowa, Illinois and Missouri, said the popular soda has been used by some in an effort to boost yields — with the idea of the sugars adding nutrients to the corn.

“I actually really have heard somebody buy and put Mountain Dew on because of the sugar,” he said. “I haven’t done that, but high fructose corn syrup like out of ADM in Cedar Rapids or Keokuk down here or in Muscatine, I’ve heard that’s something you should be doing.”

Lindner has always been competitive in annual yield contests, winning the NCGA corn contest in 2009. His ultimate goal is to win Iowa, Missouri and Illinois in the same season.

“That’s going to be really tough to do,” Lindner said. “I came pretty close last year with a first, a second and a fourth, but to hit everything just right is a tough thing to do.”

While shooting for 300-bushel-per-acre yields can be fun, Lindner said it’s not necessarily practical to do that across a whole farm. However, he has learned some lessons and brought some practices into his main fields.

“It’s all about how much you want to spend,” Lindner said. “There are a few things we’ve moved over such as split applications of nitrogen. We aren’t putting it all on ahead anymore. We are side dressing — maybe putting ammonia down early or in the fall, then coming back with more. We split up the nitrogen a lot.”

For soybeans it’s much the same story as corn. Variety selection kicks off the direction of the crop, accordng to Iowa State University’s research. Focus on resistance for issues such as soybean cyst nematode.

Ideal plantings in Iowa come in late April or early May to maximize yield, Iowa State said. The further south a farmer is, the more likely they will find success with earlier plantings.

“Research shows the best time to plant soybean in Iowa is the last week of April in the southern two-thirds of Iowa and the first week of May in the northern third,” according to Iowa State agronomists. “Yield gains of 3 to 4 bushels per acre can be achieved by planting soybean beginning April 25 or May 1 in Iowa.”

Soil temperature is less of a concern, but planting too early can have negative effects in some cases.

“Planting when the soil is too wet or too cold can rob soybean yield,” they said. “Typically soil temperatures are not a concern, but soybean planted in late April may be exposed to cool soil temperatures and less than ideal soil moisture conditions.”

Lindner’s suggestion for those looking for an extra boost center around flexibility. Weather can be variable, meaning fungicides and herbicides will have different levels of impact on a given year.

“Row width can be important on different kinds of soils,” Lindner said. “Population in soybeans (can be important). It used to be we planted soybeans pretty thick and now we are thinning that off. Now it seems we are planting corn heavier, but every person has different ground.”

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