The May issue of Indiana Prairie Farmer features a new section devoted exclusively to growing corn- Corn Illustrated. Look for it four times per year. The next edition is slated for August '07. One big part of this new feature is a review of demonstrations and research conducted just for Corn Illustrated readers.
The trials and plots are located on Jim Facemire's farm near Edinburgh in Johnson County. Dave Nanda, a plant breeder with forty years of experience, is helping supervise and design the trials.
Corn was planted for the two farm field-scale plots on May 1. While some believe it's advantageous to plant corn in April, so far most agronomists believe decreases in yield potential don't start occurring until somewhere around May 10 to May 15 in Indiana. Weather patterns, including periods of rain and cool weather, prevented earlier planting of these plot fields this year.
One trial will compare sidedressing rates. Two hybrids were planted at 32,000 seeds per acre. About 20 pounds of nitrogen was applied at planting. N rates for liquid injection at sidedressing will be zero, 50, 100, 150 and 200 pounds per acre. Last year's study indicated that corn with only 20 pounds of N can still yield better than 100 bushels per acre. Top yield last year, in the 180 bushels-plus per acre range, came at 100 pounds of sidedress N, or 120 pounds of total N, per acre in '06.
However, the amount of N it takes to produce a bushel of corn is very weather dependent, Nanda says. That's partly because weather patterns can greatly impact potential losses of N through various means. While Purdue University researchers found that corn yields topped out around 100-125 pounds per acre in northwestern Indiana in '06, they also discovered that it took closer to the traditional 1.0 to 1.2 pounds of N per bushel of corn to reach top yields in east-central Indiana, where rain was more prevalent earlier in the season in '06, and where soils tend to remain wetter longer. Both of those factors favor higher N loss rates. Besides, even with increased N demands, yields still didn't top out as high on identical plots as they did in northwestern and west-central Indiana.
This year's Corn Illustrated plot will attempt to answer what organizers didn't include last year- would 50 pounds of N have been enough, or close to enough, in a year like '06? But since this year will be different once again, whatever shows up this year really only applies to this season, or a season similar to this one.
Last year's N trials on the Facemire farm were small plots, consisting of two 1/1000th acre rows. By going to field-sized plots this year, organizers hope to get a better feel for real-world conditions.
The second major trial planted last week (May 1) is a high-yield attempt. Two hybrids, the same two used for the nitrogen study, were planted at 32,000 and 41,000 seeds per acre. A third hybrid was also included at both planting rates. It's the only hybrid that has biotech traits- it's protected by Yield Gard corn borer protection, and is Roundup Ready, tolerant to glyphosate applications.
Plans call for adding fungicide as another variable in this plot. Part of it will be sprayed with fungicide at tasseling, while part won't be sprayed.
Stay tuned for updates during the season.