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Hoe drill key to North Dakota top corn yield

corn plant leaf closeup
BIG YIELDS: Steve Huber’s 285 bushel per acre entry in the National Corn Yield Contest was No. 1 in North Dakota.
Steve Huber of Berlin, N.D., says using a hoe drill to put toward fertilizer increased his corn yields.

Steve and Betty Huber of Berlin, N.D., had the top yield in North Dakota in the 2017 National Corn Yield Contest — 285.8132 bushels per acre. It was in the non-irrigated, conventional-till division.

Steve credits the winning yield to a hoe drill that he uses to apply fertilizer. The implement is 57-feet wide with shanks on 10-inch centers. The shoes on the shanks spread fertilizer in bands about 4 ½ inches wide, 4 inches below the soil surface. That creates fertilizer ribbons every 6 ½ inches part across the width of the machine. About 36-feet is covered by fertilizer. A rolling basket harrow and 4-inch wide packing wheels follow the shanks. Together, they level the soil and firm up the seedbed.

The Hubers rotate corn, soybeans and wheat. Their winning entry last year came from corn following soybeans in the rotation. They lightly worked the soybean stubble in the fall of 2016, just enough to prevent the field from blowing over winter. In spring, they used the hoe drill to apply about 480 pounds of dry fertilizer on the field. They put on about 220 pounds of nitrogen, 80 pounds of phosphorus and 25 pounds of potash — plus some sulfur, zinc and other micronutrients — per acre.

Steve and Betty, who get help doing field work from a neighbor and family members, can cover about 200 acres per day with the hoe drill.

On May 6 last year, a few days after applying the fertilizer, the Hubers planted the hybrid Dekalb DKC44-15RIB at rate of about 33,800 seeds per acre. They put down about 5 gallons of 10-34-0 per acre with the seeds. To control weeds, they tank mixed Triple Flex with Atrazine. They didn’t sidedress or foliar apply additional N. They didn’t use any fungicide. The hybrid and Mother Nature did the rest.

The Hubers averaged about 220 bushels of corn per acre on their farm last year. It was a dry season. Only about 2 inches of rain fell between planting and early September, when hail wiped out the soybeans. Crop adjustors gave them a 20% loss on their corn — including the 10 acres they used for the contest.

“We really improved my yields when we started using the hoe drill,” Huber says. “We had been broadcasting the fertilizer, but I don’t think it was getting into the ground. The hoe drill is a lot more consistent.”

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