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King Corn's Secrets To High Yields

What’s Randy Dowdy’s secret to high corn yields?

Dowdy won the irrigated division in the 2012 National Corn Growers Yield Contest with a 372-bushel-per-acre entry. He shared some of his secrets to high yields at a session at the recent Big Iron farm show in West Fargo, N.D.

“The most important thing to see in your field…is your shadow,” said Dowdy, of Valdosta, Ga.

He walks every acre of corn on his farm.

“I walk with the crop consultant…I take soil samples,” he said.

Other advice from Dowdy:

Don’t plant all your acres to one hybrid. He plants a dozen different hybrids every year.

Don’t plant all your corn at the same population. The weather will be different each year, and it will affect hybrids differently. Planting different populations across your farm spreads your risk.

Don’t plant all the same maturity, even if you have enough growing degree days to get the longest-maturing hybrid available to finish in time. He said that he saw ear tip back range from 0 to 4 inches on different hybrids this year. Hybrids react to the season differently, and yield will be affected, even if the date they reach maturity isn’t a factor.

Conduct your own tests. He devotes 20 to 30 acres each year to experiments. A seed company puts out a plot trial, and he does his own comparisons of production practices.

Don’t always believe the experts. Dowdy said he was told that it wasn’t worth trying twin row corn because the university had done it for five years and hadn’t seen a statistically significant yield increase. But they had only ripped the soil between the rows. Dowdy figured it might be different if they had ripped the soil under each row. So he rigged up a toolbar to rip directly beneath twin rows and increased his yields 30 bushels per acre.“You have to keep an open mind and be willing to test new things,” he said.

How high can corn yields go?

“I’ve seen 500 bushels per acre on my yield monitor,” he said.

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