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Corn Under Construction

December 8, 2012
By: Rhonda Brooks, Farm Journal Seeds & Production Editor
pD10 Corn Under Construction 2
By spoon-feeding nutrients to their corn crop, particularly between the V6 and V10 growth stages, Ray, John and Dale Launstein are boosting annual yield averages.  

These farmers are building higher yield averages

Always building something is a good way to describe the Launstein family. While farming is their first love, construction might be a close second.

Throughout the years, Dale Launstein, his brother, John, and their father, Ray, have tackled projects small and large, from remodeling Dale’s 1916 farmhouse to constructing the buildings for their new 10,000-head wean-to-finish hog operation. Now, the family is laying the foundation for corn yields they expect will eventually average 300 bu. per acre across their 3,000-acre farm near the small burg of Holland in northeast Iowa.

The Systems Approach to
corn production adds yield in
5 bu. to 10 bu. per acre

Though it’s a reach, the Launsteins believe the goal is within their grasp. "We’ve already hit 300 bu. an acre in various fields; we just need to do it on more acres more consistently," Dale explains.

Headed higher. This year, the Launsteins averaged 199 bu. of dryland corn in a continuous corn rotation. That was a measurable notch above 2011, despite the drought and high temperatures this year’s crop endured. "It was about 8 bu. or so better than we saw across the farm in 2011," Dale reports.

He attributes the family’s high corn yields to micromanaging the crop during the growing season, particularly its nitrogen availability. Management zones set up in 2½-acre increments help the Launsteins analyze and refine their fertility program.

"We keep the plant’s lunchbox full at all times so it never goes hungry," adds Nick Griffieon, the Launsteins’ agronomist. "That helps us push those yields."

High yields don’t just happen, according to Fred Below, a University of Illinois professor of crop physiology. "You must plan for them," he says.

Below crisscrosses the country each year, talking with farmers about how to manage corn for high yields. There is a sense of urgency in Below’s presentations, and for good reason.

In the next 37 years, by 2050, the world will increase from its current population of 7 billion to 9 billion. That’s nearly four times the 2.6 billion people who lived on the planet in 1950. To meet the increased demand for food, Below says, farmers will need to produce 70% more than they do now. That means, on average, that each U.S. corn grower will need to grow 300 bu. of corn per acre, double the current national yield average.

A number of agribusiness firms are committing resources to help farmers achieve that objective. One, the Mosaic Company, launched an endeavor this year called Pursuit of 300: The Road to Higher Yields. The program connects farmers, retailers, agronomists and university researchers, who share best management practices for obtaining higher yields, notes Kevin Kimm, senior director of marketing for Mosaic. The company’s strategy is to help each farmer-participant intensely manage 100 acres, boosting corn yields that can be transferred to full-farm practices. Launstein is one of six farmer participants in this introductory year.

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FEATURED IN: Farm Journal - December 2012



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