Farm Progress

Contest gives youth head start in STEM careers

Innovative Youth Corn Challenge guides participants through all aspects of corn production.

February 1, 2018

4 Min Read
HONORED: Gathered in front (from left) are Gavin Nelson, Rylan Nelson, Nolan Beccard, Landon Hasenkamp and Payton Schiller. In back are Isaac Stromberg, Kade Stromberg, Juliana Loudon, Korbin Kudera, Hayden Beccard, Levi Schiller and James Rolf.Brandy VanDeWalle

Science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) careers are in high demand and will continue to be in future years. To engage youth in crop science education, the Innovative Youth Corn Challenge was created as a partnership between the Nebraska Corn Board and Nebraska Extension.

Since the program’s inception in 2012, 35 teams and 105 youths have participated, with 20 teams successfully harvesting and analyzing their plot data.

This contest, open to 4-H members or FFA members, guided participants through all aspects of corn production, as well as agricultural careers related to corn production. It also gives them a chance to try new management practices, inputs or technologies in on-farm research.

Young innovators
The 2017 winning team was the Rising Stars 4-H Club from Platte County, which included Kade and Isaac Stromberg, and sponsor Brad Stephens. They tested a midseason V6 application of ammonium sulfate on corn, a treatment that cost $18 per acre. Their hypothesis was that ammonium sulfate would increase yield by making more nitrogen available before tasseling. Their check plot had a yield of 265.6 bushels per acre compared to the treatment plot yield of 270.4 bushels per acre.

The second-place team overall was the Wood River FFA, consisting of Nathan Burnett and Zane Turek, and sponsor Juliana Loudon. They tested the potential for a yield increase from using a higher planting population for dryland corn than what is normally planted for their area. Their standard practice was a planting population of 21,000 seeds per acre, compared to a higher rate of 26,000 in their challenge plot. This year they faced a challenge in their plot with the rapid growth of Palmer amaranth, and their check plot outyielded their treatment plot, at 220 bushels per acre compared to 192 bushels per acre.

Third place went to the Lost Creek 4-H Club from Colfax County. Logan, Gavin and Rylan Nelson, with sponsor Steve Nelson, tested the use of automatic down-pressure management versus static levels of down pressure on yield. Their plot had five different treatments: automatic down pressure, and 0, 125, 250 and 375 pounds of downforce. The yield results were 193 bushels per acre for 0 pound of downforce, 197 bushels per acre for 125 pounds, 201 bushels per acre for 250 pounds, 198 bushels per acre for 375 pounds and 195 bushels per acre for the automatic down-pressure plot.

Also, completing their plot was the Maple Creek Creators 4-H Club of Colfax County, which included Korbin and Kara Kudera. They tested the use of an in-furrow 8-20-5-5-.05 starter fertilizer in their operation as they switched from minimum to no-till.

Their observation is that dry weather and a high salt fertilizer may have affected their challenge plot. Their end yield was 173.1 bushels per acre for the control and 170.3 for their starter fertilizer plot. Their project sponsor was Kevin Kudera.

The Kornhusker Kids 4-H Club of Cuming County included Kaleb and Landon Hasenkamp, Angela, Matthew and James Rolf, Levi Schiller and Payton Schiller. On their plot, located in Dodge County, the team tested the effects of interseeding two different cover crops into standing corn at V5, with the goal of increasing nutrient availability to the crop and allowing earlier establishment of the cover crop. The plot included a control with no cover crop, as well as medium red clover and tillage radishes. Unfortunately, a dry June resulted in poor cover crop establishment.

Clover Catchers 4-H Club of Otoe County consisted of Hayden and Nolan Beccard, and sponsor Ryan Beccard. They tested yields of one corn hybrid with different insect traits. Their study was designed to see if the rootworm trait would increase yield by controlling rootworm with extended diapause in a corn-soybean rotation. Their check plot yielded 176.6 bushels per acre, compared to the treatment plot with the rootworm trait at 175.9 bushels per acre.

The Shelton FFA Chapter consisted of Jacob Snyder and Ryan Lewis, and sponsor Hannah. They tested the addition of Agnition products on corn yield. Their check plot had a yield of 230 bushels per acre, compared to the treatment plot at 228.5 bushels per acre.

Working with industry
As a team, youth worked with an adult mentor throughout the process. Mentors can be Extension faculty, ag teachers or other qualified agronomy professionals.

Other awards, each worth $200, were handed out during the banquet held on UNL’s East Campus:

 Extra Mile Award to Kornhusker Kids 4-H Club

 Innovation Award to the Lost Creek 4-H’ers

 Sustainability Award to Kornhusker Kids 4-H Club (dryland)

To participate in 2018, youth must complete and return an entry form by March 15 to the Fillmore County Extension Office in Geneva. Forms can be found at For more information, contact Brandy VanDeWalle at [email protected].

This report comes from UNL CropWatch.

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