At least one Master Farmer and one farmer on the Indiana Farm Management tour this year were particularly big believers in adding micronutrients to their corn recipe. One, Del Unger, uses tissue testing as a guide, but routinely applies fertilizer with some micronutrients. And more people these days are adding sulfur, adding that improvement sin scrubber technology at utilities that burn coal mean that there is much less sulfur in the air than there was at one time.
How do you know if these practices pay? The best way is to test them on your own farm through test plots, notes Dave Nanda, an agronomic consultant and director of genetics and technology for Seed Consultants. He advises anyone who wants to try any practice to either put in a replicated test plot, ideally, or at least leave untreated strips in the field. If the entire field is either applied with sulfur or zinc, or both, and no pots are left behind, you have no way to know if the micronutrients are helping the crop, or if it would be performing just as good if you had not applied them.
Fred Below, University of Illinois, does his testing with what he calls omission plots. He has identified five factors that the believes are important to high-yield corn production. Then in replicated plots, he backs out of one factor at a time. In other words, one treatment is a mix of all five factors, one has only four, and so on. The theory is to see which factors are contributing to yield.
His test results are preliminary and he has replicated plots out in various parts of Illinois this season. So far, however, one thing that stands out is that he believes he's getting a good response to the very nutrients discussed above, sulfur and zinc. He's using a premium product supplied by the mosaic Company to add these elements to his corn plots.
You can see his plots at the Farm Progress Show near Decatur, Illinois, slated for August 30, 31 and September 1. The show is less than a three-hour drive from the Indianapolis Airport. The plots will be located on the northwest corner of the show grounds, near West Street and 12th avenue. Although they are replicated research plots, he does expect to allow people to look for themselves, and judge if there is a visual difference when one or ore of what he believes are the components to high yield, are removed from the crop mix.