Crops News

High yield experts: Crop not done until it’s in combine bin


During this year’s Commodity Classic in San Antonio, Texas,  Stoller USA featured a diverse panel of seasoned high yield champions as well as the next generation of superstar growers to find out their approaches to season-long crop management and breaking yield barriers.

This year’s panel included:

  • Steven Albracht, who manages 5,400 acres of corn, sorghum, and triticale in Hart, Texas, and has won 11 national yield titles.
  • Dan Arkels, who farms 3,250 acres of corn and soybeans in Peru, Illinois. In 2014, he became the first Illinois grower to produce more than 100 bu/A soybeans.
  • Perry Galloway farms 10,000 acres of corn, soybeans, wheat, and rice in Gregory, Arkansas. He is an annual state and national yield contest champion.
  • Zack Rendel and his family farm 5,000 acres of corn, sorghum, soybeans, canola, and wheat on a sixth-generation family farm established in Miami, Oklahoma, in 1853. Rendel Farms has won multiple state sorghum yield contests on dryland acres.
  • Casey Hook is a second-generation grower and farms 1,400 acres of soybeans, corn, rice, and cotton in Lake City, Arkansas. He and his father have placed first and second in the Northeast Delta division of the Arkansas Soybean Association Yield Challenge the last three years.

During the session, “Break Through Yield Barriers: Production Practices for High-Yield Acres Nationwide,” panelists were faced with several questions from the room as well as through live participation through texting. Here’s a glimpse at what some of them had to say:

When do you lose the most corn yield? Germination, V-4/V-5, Pollination, or Grain Fill

“I’m a real stickler on planting. We don’t plant fast, we plant about 3 to 3/12 miles an hour,” Albracht said. “I want every seed the same depth, the same spacing, and I want every seed up, but then the first emergence in 12 hours.”

“I found that if you keep after that plant during grain fill you can take 58-pound test weight up all the way up to 64 or 65 and possibly higher than that,” Arkels said. “That is where your top end yield is going to come from I believe.”

“V4-V5 — I feel like I’m vulnerable to some stresses that I can’t control. We monitor with the tissue testing and even put some fungicide out for some early season disease,” Galloway said. “Being irrigated is the advantage I have. Pollination and grain fill are a big deal, but I feel I can control that well enough to make a good crop.”

What cultural practices produce the biggest ROI?

“I think timing is everything when you are applying your inputs, because some people are complacent and sitting there waiting – I can’t wait to get a high boy through — well they may wait eight or nine days,” Hook said. “It costs me more money to sit back and not be able to apply it at the right times. I think that is one of the boats people are missing out on. We try to save money on the application, when we should be worrying about the inputs that are going into the crop.”

What type of seed treatments do you use?

“I’m for sure insecticide and fungicide. You got to protect that seed and then give it a boost out of the ground,” Rendel said. “Go ahead and treat with a hormone also to give it a good straight root and get it out of the ground.”

“It’s about early seedling health is why you are going to use a fungicide to get that plant out of the ground and going quickly, healthy,” Arkels said.

How often you do use plant hormones?

“We run a lot of plant hormones on corn and cotton, and on milo to push that plant. We see a lot of benefits in hormones, but I just think we haven’t figured out the timing issue completely yet on all the plants,” Albracht said. “In my area, we are so hot and no humidity, no rainfall to speak of, so we try to push our plants so hard so I’ve got to use the hormones to stimulate, from Stoller and other products, to promote plant health.”

Will you make any planned applications post-reproduction?

“In corn after pollination, we will try to keep it healthy going into pollination and then maybe during brown silk, we will add another application to keep it healthy as long as we can,” Arkels said. “If you would have asked this question maybe four or five years ago, you wouldn’t have that many responses I don’t think with guys wanting to post pollinate a product, because it gets a little expensive. But you got to look at what it is going to return to you in the end as far as extra yield.”

“I think anyone who is trying to make a high yield is making at least one application in any crop,” Galloway said. “What I found is when we are really trying to make the higher yields, especially on soybeans, the first fungicide application is usually recommended around R3 quarter inch pods. What I’ve been doing is going a little earlier, R1½ to R2, and then making an R5 application and we are gaining four or five bushels. I’ve proved it myself several times.”

“This is a no brainer. In our area, it is very heavily irrigated and I think you run into disease pressure that people don’t understand,” Hook said. “We try to add in some other things late to increase our test weight because with test weight that’s the only thing we are looking towards to grow our yield. We can only set so many pods on the plant but we can increase the weight until the very end.”

“You’re not done with that crop until it is in the bin of the combine. If you think you are done once the pods set, you are just letting it sit out there for a possible disaster to happen,” Rendel said, who scouts two to three times a week using his drone. “Don’t give up on it yet, it still has a little way to go.”

One piece of advice to improve yields this year?

“Think outside the box,” Rendel said. “Be willing to try new things.”

“Input timing, I can’t think of anything that is more critical,” Galloway said. “I don’t care what it is, if it needs to be done on Saturday, do it on Saturday. Don’t wait until Monday or Tuesday.”

“Get your crop planted as early as you possibly can, so long as it is going to be safe, to try to take full advantage of the growing season, and then plant health through the entire season is paramount,” Arkels said.

“I think it is plant health too and also I think it is complacency,” Hook said. “There’s always room for improvement and don’t think you are too big to change. Always be able to try something new.”

“Always do things in a timely manner to make the yield and walk the fields,” Albracht said.

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