How To Boost Your Yields

Copyright: Sven Torfinn/Panos
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Ever wonder how to break though yield barriers? Or maybe how to tweak your crop rotation to make sure it’s firing on all cylinders? A panel of farmers at an event sponsored by Stoller at this week’s Commodity Classic in San Antonio, Texas, did just that.

1. Plant Soybeans Early

So far, a warm winter in many areas may give you the idea to pull out your planter this month. Don’t.

Still, you may be able to plant soybeans earlier than you think. Dan Arkels, Peru, Illinois, has planted soybeans in northern Illinois as early as April 17. That’s two weeks earlier than what is considered normal in that area.

Planting soybeans by that date – protected from early-season stressors by a seed treatment – gets plants off to an early start in soaking up sunshine and churning out photosynthesis. “The faster you can get (to the point) where the plant is blossoming by June 21 (summer solstice), the better off you will be,” Arkels says. In the case of the April 17 planting, plants were setting blossoms by June 9, he says.

Just don’t go overboard. “I would not plant earlier than April 15 in my area,” Arkels says.

2. Scout, Scout, Scout

During the growing season, Zack Rendel, Miami, Oklahoma, checks his fields several times a week. A drone is a tool that enables him to do this. “It can warn you if something bad is going on in the field,” he says.

Still, he says a drone is no substitute for getting out and walking fields. “There are some things that I can’t see with a drone, so I still need to get boots on the ground,” he says.

3. Plant On-Farm Test Plots The Right Way

Perry Galloway, Gregory, Arkansas, has lots of on-farm tests plots on his farm. It enables him to evaluate products touted by companies for performance on his farm. He does it on one condition, though. “If I do it, companies have to be there. I have a lot to do (during test-plot establishment),” he says. Company reps who assist during this busy time can help ensure the test plot is established correctly so it can yield accurate results.

“One way I learn is by side-by-side evaluations with different products,” adds Arkels.

4. Feed Your Corn Several Times

“I am a firm believer in multiple applications (of nitrogen) on corn and not a lot at one time,” says Arkels. “You get the most bang for your nitrogen (N) dollar that way.” Arkels applies liquid UAN preplant and then sidedresses N up to V8 corn, and then he often comes back with a foliar application later in the season.

Manure is also a valuable tool. “Our fields are heavily manured from a nearby dairy,” says Steve Albracht, a Hart, Texas, farmer. Besides fertility, manure also aids soil health, he says. “We have seen it increase organic matter and water-holding capacity,” he says.

5. Scrutinize Your Crop Mix

Low corn prices are making sorghum viable again in some areas. “A lot of people consider sorghum the red-headed stepchild of crops,” says Rendel. “They just put it out and go.”

Managed properly, though, grain sorghum can play a valuable role in a crop rotation. It’s particularly important to manage it through sugarcane aphid outbreaks with an insecticide, he says. “Sorghum is very similar to corn in how we treat it,” he says. “If we get a drought in mid-August, it will push through and yield. It is a drought-tolerant crop.”

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