From the Farm: Increasing corn yields

Local News

PONTIAC, Ill. (WCIA) — You would not feed your family one big meal a year, then clean off the table.  So why do farmers do that to their corn crop? 

Farmers who have already sold some of their new crop corn want to make sure they have great yields. Chief Agronomist Jason Webster of the Precision Planting research farm at Pontiac is feeding his corn throughout the growing season.

“A good recipe for increasing corn yields is spoon feeding,” says Webster. “Not putting all the nutrients on at one time.  I call it a relay race by track, where you’ve got multiple runners, exchanging that baton.  We’re going to do the same thing with fertilizer; just all the way through the growing season, continuing to make sure that corn has a good day, every single day.”

WCIA asks him, “what nutrients are we talking about?”

“Nitrogen is a big one for corn,” he says. “We know that is a very mobile unit in the soil, a very mobile nutrient, if we get a lot of rainfall, we have the potential for losing it, so we don’t want to put it on all at one time.  We want to spoon feed it along through the season.”

But what about sulfur, boron, zinc?

“We look at it as multiple split applications, but the planter is a big one for us; so the products that you mentioned, we’re applying nitrogen, sulfur, boron, potassium to the side of the row as we plant,” Webster says. “Those typically are not seed-safe products, they are salty, we can’t put them next to the seed.

“So we put them out, we apply them thru the gage wheels, they are 3 inches away from the seed. But inside the furrow where the seed is at, we’ve got a product called furrow jet, which can actually apply liquid which can apply such things as phosphorus and zinc and those other major nutrients that we need to continue to drive yields.”

Webster says nutrient placement is key to corn yields.

“We have to put the nutrients near the mouth where it can get them for plant uptake, and if we are not putting them there, then we are taking a step back and not being real efficient,” he says.

Webster spoke at last week’s United Prairie winter meeting. 

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