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Serving: WI

Fertility Pays Dividends in Contest Yields

Fertility Pays Dividends in Contest Yields
In 2013, Carla Hargrave topped all entries across the Badger State with 278.09 bushels per acre with DKC 53-56 in the no-till/strip-till irrigated category of the National Corn Growers Association yield contest.

By Harlen Persinger

Hargrave Farms counts on a first-class fertility package to fuel each year's corn production program. A snapshot of last season's weigh tickets confirms supreme results.

In 2013, Carla Hargrave topped all entries across the Badger State with 278.09 bushels per acre with DKC 53-56 in the no-till/strip-till irrigated category of the National Corn Growers Association yield contest. Meanwhile, the plot entered by her husband, Rick, measured 274 bushels per acre in the conventional tillage category.

READY TO GO: Carla and Rick Hargrave are pictured in front of their Kinze corn planter with daughters Hattie, 4, left, and Holly, 2. The couple met when Carla was the Green Lake County Extension ag agent. "He called me for advice with a crop injury problem following an herbicide application."

The couple also raises sweet corn, peas, green beans and lima beans on 1,100 acres between Berlin and Markesan in Green Lake County. Their operation includes 525 acres of irrigated ground.

"To obtain bin-busting yields on our Kidder fine sandy and silt loam soils, we rely on soil tests and apply a dry starter fertilizer 2x2 at planting. This technique works well because placing potassium in the row insures that young plants have easy access to this nutrient,"

Carla says, "In the past we've tried liquid popup on the seed with limited or no response."

Irrigated fields are fertigated four times with 28% liquid nitrogen, from emergence until bolt with the last application being complete at the flag leaf stage.

Sulfur, at a rate of 20 pounds per acre, also goes on through each center pivot.

Tag teaming irrigation with fertigation has not only boosted yields 30 bushels per acre, but helps reduce production risks. Last year adding moisture on corn yielded 250 bushels per acre. This spring another pivot will be installed on 120 acres.

"When land prices began to increase and since timely moisture is the most limiting factor that influences yield, it was a no brainer to add more irrigation," Carla adds. "In an average year for rainfall, we've gained 60 to 80 bushels per acre on irrigated fields."

All dryland acres are side dressed with liquid nitrogen. Zinc is part of the dry starter mix, along with some ammonium sulfate. Additional sulfur is applied at side dress time using thiosulfate with 28% liquid nitrogen and is fertigated with pivots on irrigated ground. Corn-on-corn fields are turbo-tilled prior to planting. No-till corn follows double-crop peas and green beans in the rotation.

Preplant herbicides include Basis and Volley ATZ. Fungicides used at tassel time were Quilt or Headline.

The Hargraves prefer to plant corn the first or second week of May. They drop kernels in 30-inch rows with a 16-row Kinze unit outfitted with automatic row shutoffs. When the 90-acre plot was harvested on Oct. 13, the final stand was 38,000 plants per acre at 27.7% moisture.

Besides proper fertility and monitoring moisture applications, the couple key in on several factors to keep plants healthy and achieve consistent yields.

Major steps include: 
•Targeting hybrid selection
•Using fungicides to reduce plant stress
•Scouting for insects and treating when necessary
•Preparing a good seedbed for uniform plant emergence
•Preventing weed competition through early season control

"With a BS degree in agronomy from UW-River Falls, I enjoy tweaking our nutrient management plan. I also keep the financial records," Carla notes. "Rick selects each hybrid and determines what is required to stop weed infestations."

Both address insect and disease problems and work together to market crops. During the winter, they pencil out input costs for both irrigated and dryland corn.

The goal is to pre-contract about 40% of their total production prior to harvest. Canning crops provide diversification and help spread out risk because signing contracts in February sets the price per ton for each product that is produced.

"For us, entering the contest is not only a worthy challenge but also provides the opportunity to scrutinize updated technologies and new products," Carla adds. "In this enterprise, we must continually focus on updated practices that deliver higher yields as well as increased profits per acre."

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