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Sweet yield secrets

Even in a drought, farmers should not give up on their crops. That was the message from four Missouri crop farmers who shared their strategies on realizing 100-bushel soybeans and 300-bushel corn during a recent University of Missouri field day.

“Any time a plant is in stress you are losing yield,” says Charlie Hinkebein, a corn and soybean farmer from Chaffee.

Unlikely health boost

Hinkebein believes sugar holds some benefits for plants during drought. “The first thing to go in a plant is starch,” he says. “With sugar, we are adding that back.”

He puts on 2 pounds per acre on his soybeans at the r3 stage, and between full tassel and light-brown silk in corn. Hinkebein uses roughly 10,000 pounds of sugar per year. According to Hinkebein, sugar, when applied with insecticides and fungicides, seals the plant, keeping the treatments in place. “There is stickiness to it, where you know it is being held in place.”

John Ortiz, a Garden City farmer, is also a fan of sugar.

“I am using a dextrose product because it is processed with cold instead of heat,” he says. “We are not baking a cake here, so it is not cane sugar.” He, too, says it improves plant health during the growing season.

Watch out for yield-robbers

The men, including Delta farmer Jerry Cox and Garden City producer Franklin Weaver, reminded farmers not to let weeds or insects get the upper hand in fields.

Weeds need to be controlled all season long. “You have guys talking waterhemp over 4 inches tall,” Hinkebein says. “You have got to get at these weeds early to knock them down.”

The men also told the group that scouting fields for weeds and insects helps boost yields. They agreed insects could rob yields by 5-10 bushels/acre without notice.

They also recommended stopping the “dashboard” scouting method, where farmers drive by a field and look at it from the comfort of the truck cab. Rather, they say, take time in the early morning hours at least three times a week to scout fields for yield-robbing problems.

Then, Cox says, be willing to change; perhaps spend a little money to save yield.

NEW KID ON THE BLOCK:


John Ortiz may not have the experience of the other High Yield Forum panelists, but he has determination. “It is not how you start,” he says. “It is how you finish.”


The Garden City farmer says that starting with good genetics and a fertilizer program gets plants out of the ground early. He also uses a form of sugar, dextrose, on his crops. Working closely with his crop consultant and using biological fungicides gives his crop the best opportunity for success.

GAME-CHANGER:

Jerry Cox says the way to reach record yields is to be willing to adjust your current farming practices. “The one thing you have to be is willing to change.”

This year the Delta producer is trying to mimic the planting practices of National Corn Growers Association yield winner David Hula. Cox increased his plant population in corn to 42,000 plants per acre in an effort to reach that 429 bushels/acre mark. He was on track until the drought hit his area. “We will see what happens.”

ENVIRONMENTALLY FRIENDLY:

Franklin Weaver’s goal is to get the highest yield with the least amount of impact on the environment. He works with a number of biological fungicides and uses a lot of on farm research to test new ideas. “It is really nice to work with a lot of research,” he says. “Then you get to see the result personally.”

SUGAR-COATED:

Charlie Hinkebein says that sugar is key to producing bin-busting yields. The Chaffee farmer earned his way into the 100-bushel club back in 2009 and said that applying sugar to fields keeps insecticides and fungicides on the plant. “During a drought, the first thing to go is the starch in the plant,” he says. “You can keep that plant growing longer with sugar.” Hinkebein uses roughly 10,000 pounds of sugar per year.


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TOP IN FIELD: The University of Missouri brought in four of the state’s high-yield producers to visit with farmers about their crop management practices: Charlie Hinkebein of Chaffee (from left), John Ortiz of Garden City, Franklin Weaver of Garden City and Jerry Cox of Delta.

This article published in the August, 2012 edition of MISSOURI RURALIST.

All rights reserved. Copyright Farm Progress Cos. 2012.