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Corn+Soybean Digest

Quest For Best Continuous Corn Management Practices

Purdue University researchers are surveying farmers in the field to learn from their corn-after-corn experiences to help guide research and teach others.

Mike and Patrick Shuter, of Frankton, IN, farm corn, soybeans, cattle and hogs.

"We have planted continuous corn for two years now and are seeing yields of 185-190 bu./acre," Mike Shuter said. "In one field, we planted half of it with corn back-to-back, which was strip tilled and the other half we strip tilled bean stubble and then planted in corn, and the two areas were comparable in yield."

Purdue agriculture economists estimate that by 2010, Indiana growers will plant 7 million acres of corn versus the 6.6 million acres planted in 2007.

"This year we are at an all-time record for corn planted in Indiana, which has brought acres out of the normal corn/soybean rotation," said Greg Preston, director of the Indiana Agricultural Statistics Service. "If a grower has had success, we need to know about it so we can share their management practices with other farmers. If there were problems, we need to get that information to the Purdue scientists who can begin to look for solutions."

Because cropland acres are relatively fixed, the demand for more corn means that more continuous corn acres will be planted – a fundamental change from the traditional corn/soybean rotation sequence for most growers.

"Agronomic research literature consistently shows yield penalties when corn is planted back-to-back," said Bruce Erickson, Purdue agronomist and ag economist. "There are more risks involved, challenges related to tillage and seedbed preparation and sometimes more pest concerns with corn after corn."

But researchers know that there are a wide range of practices and experiences with corn after corn, and many producers seem to have mastered this system by keeping input costs in check while maintaining high yields.

Approximately 2,000 Indiana farmers with corn-after-corn experience received a survey, which will help Purdue in its continuous corn research. The survey asks about management practices and yield data, as well as information about weed control, tillage systems, insect management practices and field drainage.

"We want to learn more about yield experiences of corn in various rotation sequences, examine production practices and share information with those who have less experience with corn after corn," Erickson said.

The goal is to help interested growers make the shift to more corn after corn.

"We have already had success with the survey, just in realizing there are more corn- after-corn acres than we expected," Preston said.

Not only are researchers looking at management practices, but also regional differences.

"Because of the increased demand for corn due to biofuels, this is very important research," Preston said. "The survey results will help keep Indiana farmers ahead of the trend."

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