A simple replicated plot with two hybrids and three planting populations yielded up to 245 bushels per acre of corn in an initial study last season. It was the first attempt at a project designed to study both how genetics and environment interact in the corn field, and to see how far farmers can realistically and economically push yields. The effort was sponsored by Stewart Seeds, Greensburg, Ind., and Indiana Prairie Farmer magazine.
Stewart Seeds and Indiana Prairie Farmer have agreed to continue the project a second year. This time, however, they will expand both the number of variables and the size of the overall plots. One added dimension will be differences in total nitrogen rates.
Last season, some plots were included where low yield was expected, just to show how the same hybrids would react under low-yield environments. Growth habits, disease susceptibility and yield were all affected. For 2004, those plots have been dropped. Dave Nanda, the corn breeder from Stewarts Seeds working with the project, figures that the point has been made. Now it's time to concentrate on what factors it takes to push corn yields higher, he notes.
This time, three hybrids will be tested instead of two. There will be three population levels, all jacked up some from last year. That's because it seemed as if the best hybrid perhaps wasn't challenged enough by 40,000 plants per acre last year. There were still big, girthy ears and virtually no barren stalks, even at that population. This year's final stands will be 30,000, 40,000 and 50,000 plants per acre.
Stewart personnel will plant and harvest the plots. They will be overplanted and then thinned by hand back to the necessary population levels. Loren Beck of Stewarts Seeds, also a corn breeder, will be in charge of seeing that the plots are managed correctly.
The same trial will be repeated under both irrigated and dryland conditions. Jim Facemire, host farmer for the plot, wanted to see how the test would go under dry conditions. Last year's plots were irrigated by hand, although irrigation was only needed three times. This year, one block of plots will be irrigated by Facemire, using his center pivot rig and his management skills for deciding when to irrigate.
What will we reach this year? 275 bushels per acre? More? How about more profit per acre than a year ago? Time will tell. Stay tuned!