You know the names, David Hula, Kip Cullers, Steve Albrecht, there's a list of names for top yield contest winners floating out there and you've seen coverage in our magazines and others about their farms. I've had the pleasure to meet many of these top-yielding producers in the past and I've learned a few things. As you're rolling with the planter in the next few weeks - and the Crop Progress Report this week shows planter are finally starting to move - there are some ideas to keep in mind.
First, every one of these producers I've talked to over the years knows more about the biology of the plants they're raising than I ever thought possible. From number of blossoms on a soybean plant, to the timing of tassel for corn pretty much down to the hour. This is knowledge they use on their "contest plots" to maximize their yield, but it's also information they carry to the field when surveying ways to boost commercial crop returns.
Second, and this is a tip that I think shows you plenty about your planter and your technique - though some university extension folks extend the time - these producers look at when the first plant emerges in a field and they want to see the rest of the field out of the ground in 8 to 12 hours! Extension folks are happy with 24, and you should be too - it shows that your planter is producing an even stand. However, for top yielders - and these contest winners are producing high yields on their commercial fields - 24 hours just isn't enough. They want a top emerging hybrid or variety and they want to see evenness across the field.
Their thought: A late-emerging crop plant is just another weed in that field, but one that's harder to deal with and can drag down overall yield for the field.
You can disagree, but it's hard to argue with their success.
Finally, they love crop fertility - which goes back to point 1 (plant knowledge). These guys know that soybeans can use a little nitrogen (though the jury is still out for some research); they understand spoon-feeding corn through the season has a payback. But they also know you want to start with a good base, so poultry litter is a hot product in some areas.
Just what do you think you do that pushes up your yields? What will you do this year given a softer corn market - is it better to push for yield or "save" your way through the year? These are tough questions to ponder as you pull the planter through the field this spring. Got a thought? Comment below or send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Have a safe planting season.