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Q&A: What practice improved your ROI?

From left to right Bruce Peterson Gail Lierer Don Elsbernd
<p>From left to right: Bruce Peterson, Gail Lierer, Don Elsbernd</p>

Bruce Peterson, Northfield, Minn.

You hear that this newer generation of corn hybrids takes more nitrogen late in the season to get the yields. We’re putting on fewer pounds of fertilizer at preplant, then putting down 100 pounds of urea (46 pounds of nitrogen) with stabilizers about three weeks before tasselling, and we’ve had some good results, some good yields.

It works well for acres under irrigation to get the nitrogen working immediately. On rain-fed corn, if you don’t get rain, the nitrogen won’t work as well.

 We tried it on a quarter of our acres, relying on our co-op to get it done in a timely fashion. It certainly does give you a short-term window to get across a lot of acres, but we will definitely apply it to more acres this year.

It’s hard to do side-by-side yield comparisons of all preplant versus split applications. However, the potential environmental and yield benefits that split applications offer make it worth trying. 


Gail Lierer, Okeana, Ohio

With our grid sampling and GPS on the tractors, we’re variable-rate applying our fertilizer and lime, and we hope to get into variable-rate seeding soon.

We’re on a corn and soybean rotation, and we no-till unless we’ve tiled and need to even up the field. That saves us a lot of fuel.

We started grid sampling eight years ago, and now our whole farm is in 2.5-acre grids.  

It’s well worth it already. I’ve had a big decline in our fertilizer costs. We used to do straight 300 pounds NPK blend per acre, but the sampling showed we over-applied on our better soils and under-applied on our poorer soils.

Now, our yield monitors show we’re about average across our acres. Overall, it’s helped improve our yields.

We upgraded to a 12-row planter with splitter with new technology so we don’t over-plant the end rows, and I’m hoping for big seed savings.



Don Elsbernd, Postville, Iowa

As a no-till operation, we’ve always struggled growing corn-on-corn, and we evolved into strip tillage. We started working with Ag Leader auto steer technology about three years ago.

With auto steer, we lay out our fields with the corn planter the first year. We can set a contour line that’s repeatable from year to year, then move that line 15 inches to plant between the rows from the previous year.  

It makes it about 100 times easier to be accurate.

The expense [of auto steer] depends on the equipment you have. If you’re already using GPS and your tractor is auto steer-ready, the move up to RTK (Real Time Kinematic) GPS isn’t a huge jump.

And RTK improves the quality of the GPS signal and makes it repeatable from year to year.

Being precise saves us a lot of money with our inputs. Our equipment cuts down on overlap by shutting off at the end row to avoid overplanting or overspraying. 

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