300+ Bushel Initiative
2012 PRIDE 300+ Bushel Initiative - Summary of Results
In an effort to support our customers’ goal of sustainably increasing corn yields, PRIDE Seeds in conjunction with our sponsors initiated a high yield initiative in 2011 called the PRIDE Seeds “300+ Bushel Initiative”. Building on the outstanding results achieved in 2011, this program was expanded for the 2012 growing season, with more farmer cooperators across a broader growing region of Ontario.
The goal of the program was to evaluate yield tools and targeted improvement in “whole-farm” yield, moving away from small acreage yield challenges which had been initiated by PRIDE Seeds in the industry in the last decade.
The 2012 program study was initiated as follows:
- The PRIDE Seeds Agronomy Team selected growers who were using production practices with high yield goals and considered to be top managers in their area given their soil type and cultural practices.
- Located a High-Yield “field area” of 10 acres within a 25-acre field-planned inclusion trial
- Used a structured plan to manage toward higher yields including:
- Comparison of standard grower Nitrogen rate, increased rate (20 – 35 lb/ac additional), and a much higher rate that would generally be considered “not feasible” from an agronomic standpoint
- HEADLINE® fungicide applied at VT stage, and in some cases, V5-V8 stage
- Comparison of standard and higher seed populations (10 – 15%)
The intense drought of 2012 made for some interesting and, in some cases, very inconsistent results. Not all sites were able to provide a reliable data set. However, like many producers, we were surprised by the higher-than-expected yields at harvest. As a result, we obtained a data summary that reinforced the findings of the 2011 PRIDE Seeds 300 Bushel Initiative and provides direction for the program going into 2013.
HEADLINE® provided an economic yield advantage in 60% of trials (vs. 100% in 2011)
- Positive Yield Response in 80% of trials
- Yield increase range 2 – 14 bu/ac (vs. 6 – 30 bu/ac in 2011)
- Average 7 bu/ac (vs. 16 bu/ac in 2011)
- HEADLINE® provided advantages beyond yield
- Improved plant health in 100% of trial sites
- Improved standability and ease of harvest
- Less trash (broken stalk tops) through combine, lower CCFM dockage
- Less fuel/power required to harvest
- Improved plant health in 100% of trial sites
- Some sites not applied due to drought conditions at VT Stage
- In hindsight, this was the wrong decision in most cases
HIGH NITROGEN RATES
- Very interesting results that call for more investigation
- In most field cases, N could be assumed to be the yield-limiting factor DUE TO LACK OF RAINFALL (“mass flow” is the primary mode of N uptake through the roots and into the plant)
- The critical importance of a good root structure was reinforced in 2012
- All other yield limiting factors were well managed
- Conclusion that 150 – 170 lb. of actual nitrogen is not enough to achieve top yields in top fields – this is the same conclusion as 2011.
- On rotated ground, 200 – 220 lb. of actual nitrogen is required for top yield potential
- Higher rates are required on sandier soils (additional 10 – 20 lb/ac)
- There is a symbiotic relationship in many cases between the plant health achieved from foliar HEADLINE® and yield achieved with increased N rates
INCREASED PLANT POPULATIONS
- Seeding rates were increased 3000 – 7000 ppa depending on row width.
- Data Set doesn’t provide enough proof that increasing seeding rates beyond 5-7 % provides a positive return on investment.
SO WHAT’S THE HIGH YIELD NUMBER?
Quest was not for “How Much Yield”…but rather “How Much MORE Yield”
- On average, we gained 14 bu/ac through intensive management practices
- Range of 4 – 24 bu/ac
The high yield 10 acre areas ranged widely in 2012 due to the drought with a range of <150 bu="" up="" to="" 250="" acre="" --150--="">
- The Cost:Benefit calculated using $6.50/bu corn, $0.50/lb Nitrogen, provided significant ROI in 72% of cases (vs. 100% in 2011)
- Foliar fungicide applied at VT stage is no longer a “what if” recommendation
- This should be considered an integral part of the standard corn production program
- Benefits beyond yield increase more than offset costs for some growers
- A look at V5-V8 stage application is warranted in 2013 in high-stress situations
- This should be considered an integral part of the standard corn production program
- NITROGEN MANAGEMENT is critical
- Vitally important for producers to work with agronomy support personnel who have a sound understanding of soil fertility management
- Response to generally increased rates now warrants a renewed focus on the “4R’s of Fertilizer Application”
- Right Product
- Right Rate
- Right Place
- Right Time
- Benefits of side-dressing/split application of nitrogen were observed both from an agronomic and economic perspective
- Corn-on-Corn ground required much higher N rates to achieve maximum economic yield
- Overall, our trial work proves that there is a dovetailing effect between additional Nitrogen applications, fungicide use, and increased seeding rates. The focus for producers must be on a “Production Systems” approach.
- In 2012, crop response to additional inputs was greatly reduced in field situations where yield potential was reduced below 130 bu/ac due to drought. At 150 bu/ac or more, the results became much more predictable and reliable.
- Generally speaking, we are not managing our best soils aggressively enough to achieve maximum economic yield. The question is: How do we do it? Ontario soils are extremely variable, and each field has its own character in terms of crop response.
- What are the next “breakwalls” in terms of unlocking even more yield? Our conclusion is that long term soil health (structure, tilth, organic matter, residual fertility, etc.) is the next conquest.
- Ultimate goal is to create a situation where crop stand uniformity is maintained (variability is avoided) from planting to harvest. Crop Variability = Yield Loss.
With the 2011 growing season behind us, many growers and agronomists are once again pre-occupied with the wonders of Corn Yield. Historically, the last few years have offered so many testaments to the yield potential of corn; 2008 opened our eyes to so many yield possibilities, and the “Dream Season” of 2010 was amazing for many. Bring in 2011 with its many challenges. But this past season still managed to produce some incredibly high corn yields and overall gave growers yet another surprisingly good yield story.
With that comes all of the talk of high yields over the winter months, and a plethora of 200-plus bushel yields generated by industry yield contests. Although these high yields are proven on single acres, do they really tell the story of how to achieve “Whole Farm” high yields?
Enter the PRIDE Seeds 300+ Bushel Initiative, a new high yield corn management study launched in 2011. What brought us forward to develop this concept? A decade ago, PRIDE Seeds launched the Corn Yield Challenge, measuring the highest yields off a single acre of corn, with all production practices (being agronomically and economically feasible or not). This gave corn growers bragging rights as High Yield Champion for their area. Since then, this yield contest concept has been adopted by many other seed companies and industry organizations.
With the 300+ Bushel Initiative, PRIDE Seeds has moved beyond the “amazing acre” and taken a leadership position in the challenge of addressing whole-farm yield barriers, and increasing yields and profitability for growers. This project was launched with the intention of studying available yield-enhancing tools, and their ability to overcome the natural variability that exists in even the highest-yielding fields. What are the keys to more yield, from fencerow to fencerow?
In 2011, a dozen producers were selected from across 8 counties in Ontario, based on their interest and history of high yield potential. The PRIDE Seeds’ Agronomy Team focused on 3 key areas of yield management: population, nitrogen, and the use of foliar fungicides. A range of soil types were selected, and all sites involved some kind of tillage. All sites were rotated out of winter wheat or soybeans except one, which was second-year corn. Two producers were on 20” rows, the remainders were standard 30” rows. All selected sites were soil tested in advance and had adequate “foundation fertility” levels of Potassium, Phosphorus, etc. to ensure that Nitrogen would likely be the yield-limiting nutrient on the farm. Season-long weed control was achieved by using INTEGRITY® herbicide.
Growers planted the selected fields to PRIDE G series hybrids, which combine best-in-class genetics and traits to provide the best opportunity for hybrid yield potential. When considering hybrid maturity, CHU ratings were recommended on the high end of the given area, but not so long that it would be deemed “not feasible” in a normal production practice. In all cases the grower was already growing the hybrid as part of his regular portfolio of PRIDE Seeds’ hybrids.
Additional inputs were used as follows:
1) Populations – a target population of 10 – 20% above the grower’s standard rate.
2) Nitrogen – the grower’s standard rate – generally 160 – 180 lbs/ac – was compared to an aggressive but agronomically reasonable rate of 200 – 220 lbs/ac and a very high rate of 250+ lbs/ac, which most growers and agronomists would deem as “too high”.
3) Foliar Fungicide – HEADLINE® was applied at VT (tassel emergence) crop stage.
Within the field-scale trial set-up, a high-yield area of 10 acres was pushed for yield with all additional inputs supplied, and compared to the grower’s base production method.
As with all projects – and all crop plantings in general – the spring of 2011 offered its challenges. Weather challenges created some stand establishment issues and created enough variability to make the population aspect very difficult to reliably evaluate. However, this variability offered a great deal of learning opportunity with respect to the other input changes.
Nitrogen management certainly plays a HUGE role in corn yield potential. In our trials, the additional 40 – 50 lbs/ac of Nitrogen when applied to a high-yielding environment provided a positive Return On Investment (ROI) of approximately $70/acre, with a positive ROI in all trial locations. This came as no surprise when one recalls the spring and early summer conditions and their effect on overall Nitrogen efficiency and crop utilization.
What amazed us was the effect of the “too high” Nitrogen rates of 250+ lbs/acre. Regardless of soil-type, rotation, or the method/timing/source of application, our trial locations achieved an average positive ROI of $80/acre when compared to the grower’s standard rate. In fact, in our one second-year corn site, rates exceeded 250 lbs/acre and the crop still returned economic yield! This is incredible, but what does it tell us?
Really, it tells us that a given hybrid in a given field can have incredible yield potential, provided ALL OTHER Yield Limiting Factors have been managed. It also tells us that spring conditions play a huge role in Nitrogen management for corn production, as this nutrient can very quickly become a prominent Yield Limiting Factor in any field with good yield potential.
It’s important to note that the ROI or Economic Benefit curve generated by this project is very similar to that of any other Nitrogen input study; yield is returned up to a certain point, then the curve levels off and at some point becomes unfeasible. However, I think we’ve proven that for the highest yielding environments, Nitrogen rates may need to be increased by 10- 20%. More research in this area is warranted.
For the PRIDE Seeds 300+ Bushel Initiative we also chose to work with HEADLINE® fungicide, applied at the VT or “tassel emergence” crop stage. A combination of aerial and land machines were used for application. Once again, this management tool provided positive ROI in all of our trials, with a range of 7 – 30 bushels per acre. Overall, an average return of 16 bushels/acre, or an Economic Benefit of $61/acre was achieved. More importantly, HEADLINE® provided secondary benefits beyond the yield increase. Overall, these differences were random but did occur in the majority of locations. Of note was the benefit to harvest conditions of the crop, such as better plant intactness, fewer stalks going through the combine, and overall an easier-shelling, cleaner sample with lower dockage components. The PRIDE Seeds’ Agronomy Team recommends the use of a foliar fungicide applied at VT stage for most fields, in particular for those fields that have above-average yield potential.
Going forward, PRIDE Seeds remains committed to our pursuit of higher-yielding corn. There is more yield potential to unlock in our fields! For 2012, the 300+ Bushel Initiative will be expanded to include more growers with a focus on similar agronomic practices and input variables that are leading to higher yields.
The pursuit of higher yields is not a question of “How much yield?” but really a question of “How much more economic yield” can we achieve in our fields? For our participants in 2011, the answer was another 20 – 60 bushels per acre.For more information on the PRIDE Seeds 300+ Bushel Initiative, please contact any member of the PRIDE Seeds’ Agronomy Team. You can follow us and the 2012 PRIDE Seeds 300+ Bushel Initiative on Twitter @PRIDESEEDS.
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