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Running the Numbers on an Exceptional Year


As is the case for all of our customers, we are harvesting grower trials and Innovation Farm plots. There are some very impressive yields throughout our footprint. To say the least, this has been an incredible growing season reflected in some of the highest yields we’ve ever seen in this geography—in the 240+-bushel-per-acre range for corn and 60+ bushels for beans.

The fact that this has been a phenomenal growing season in many respects will impact our analysis of our 2014 trial results. With the exception of some localized areas of high precipitation, there was a general absence of the crop stress we generally see at some point in the production year. We experienced ideal temperatures for pollination, timely rains, and few temperature extremes. The availability of moisture allowed the root systems to proliferate through areas of light soil compaction.

We’ve seen some interesting results. For example, while we did see some performance differences between our elite genetics and other seed brands, the overall differences between full-season and short-season hybrids and varieties aren’t as pronounced as you might expect. That may be a reflection of the outstanding growing season. We also see a significant yield gain this year (8-10 bushel) from an earlier soybean planting date—say the first of May as compared to mid-May.

Analyzing nitrogen trials

One of our key trial emphases this season has been nitrogen application. We know that a growing corn plant requires a small amount of nitrogen to get started—less than 10% of the total seasonal nitrogen intake is used to reach V6. Upwards of 70% of the nitrogen is then taken up from V8 to tasseling. It makes sense, then, to apply some portion of the required nitrogen later in the season as a sidedress application to ensure that adequate N is available. United Prairie has made the investment in the sidedress equipment necessary to do that and we are now studying varying the nitrogen rate at sidedress based upon weather and soil environments.

That leaves another 20% that is utilized to take the corn plant through grain fill to maturity. Supplying that nitrogen in a timely fashion is more challenging, but we are looking at efficient ways to accomplish that.

These are the reasons we have been studying the effects of various approaches to nitrogen application. Currently, a high percentage of our customers apply nitrogen at least twice in a growing season, beginning with fall anhydrous, then coming back with a preplant or sidedress application while there are those who do all three.

This year, our Innovation Farm nitrogen trial indicates the preplant application had a good positive yield impact. As in most years, the fate of soil nitrogen is difficult to predict. What we don’t know is how much nitrogen is lost during the season. Due to relatively few heavy rain events that really move nitrogen out of the root zone, we suspect overall N loss may have been low. We also don’t have a good measure of how much mineralized nitrogen was gifted back to growing corn plants. End-of-season stalk nitrate tests were taken to measure just how our treatments faired.

We’ll be analyzing the data from the Innovation Farm plots, including the in-furrow fertilizer and seed treatment trials on soybeans, over the coming weeks. If you’re interested in the results from particular trails, get in touch with any member of our agronomy team, and we’ll be happy to share them with you when we have the numbers finalized.

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