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Yellow Corn Will Stay Short of Nitrogen on Purpose

Yellow Corn Will Stay Short of Nitrogen on Purpose
Farmer leaves nitrogen off corn as part of On-Farm Network study.

Farmers will go along with testing if it's not too time-consuming, and as long as it doesn't cost them money. You have to swallow hard to ask a farmer to leave even a small portion of his field with no nitrogen applied.

Sometimes, however, if you want to test the boundaries of what is too low and too high, it's necessary to have a strip without any nitrogen, and a strip with an excessive rate of nitrogen, agronomists say.

Yellow on purpose: Mike Starkey expects this corn to be yellow. It didn't receive any nitrogen as part of a nitrogen trial. He will see what the yield is without nitrogen when he shells corn this fall.

Mike Starkey, Brownsburg, participated in the On-Farm Network Program administered through the Indiana State Department of Agriculture. It's a program which asks farmers to volunteer and run the same test other farmers are running all over the state. Then the results are tabulated and shared with everyone.

Mike Starkey has a nitrogen test on his farm for the On-Farm Network. Part of the test called for leaving nitrogen off as one of the treatments.

"We did that, and I even left N off some extra rows," he says. "I am experimenting with planting soybeans between those rows to see if the soybeans might supply nitrogen for the corn crop."

The soybean portion of Starkey's plot is on his own; it's not part of the On-Farm Network program, he notes. Other innovative no-tillers, such as Dave Brandt in Ohio, have passed along the idea, Starkey says. Right now, it's just a theory – just something to play with to see if it might work. He's not afraid to try a new idea on a few acres, just not on the whole farm.

The On-Farm Network concept originated in Iowa. Agronomists used it to establish definite nitrogen recommendations across the state. It can also be used to test other concepts besides nitrogen rates. The nitrogen trials are usually one of the first that a farmer will try because nitrogen is a major expense for everyone in corn production.

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