With help from his input suppliers, Service and Supply Coop’s Randy Rodgers (left) and Syngenta’s Matt Hollingshead (right), Charlie Cobb hopes to apply what he learned on his high-yield field in 2011 to every acre every year.
Attention to detail pumps up yields in a poor year
The 2011 growing season didn’t dish out much in the way of corn yield bragging rights. So it’s not surprising that Charlie Cobb didn’t trust the yield monitor or his weigh wagon when they started indicating that one of his irrigated fields was nudging the 300-bu. mark.
"I headed to town and had the weigh wagon checked to make sure the scales were calibrated properly," says Cobb, who farms near Montgomery City, Mo. When the final kernel was counted this past fall, his irrigated corn acreage averaged 260 bu. per acre, with some areas reaching
300 bu. Missouri’s average yield for corn is projected to be 115 bu. per acre for 2011.
"We had a wet spring and that field didn’t get planted until June 5," Cobb recalls. "When you plant at that time of year, Mother Nature can cut you short," he adds. "Mostly you’re just hoping the field matures before frost."
Cobb has plenty of perspective from surrounding fields to draw upon. He experienced yield lows of 42 bu. and 50 bu. per acre in nonirrigated fields less than 1⁄2 mile away. In his 300-bu. field, the corners missed by the center irrigation pivot yielded 120 bu. per acre.
Timing is everything. Irrigation isn’t common in central Missouri. Cobb draws the water to run his 11 center pivots from lakes located on his property.
"There are people who have irrigation, and then there are irrigators," he says. "Our Mexico silt loam soils have a clay pan beneath that allows them to hold only about 2" of water. I irrigate when the ground will hold water. If you wait until the crop needs it, it is too late."
Cobb says his crop pollinated during high heat, but his top-yielding field saw cooler night temperatures than some of his other fields.
"I never let the field dry out. I water when I can put 1⁄2" of water on and it won’t run off," he adds.
Watering longer into the season also helped his crop deliver the kernel size and depth that contributed to better yields.
"Good yields in a bad production year have dangled a carrot in front of me. I want to do this on every acre, every year," he says. With that in mind, he called his input suppliers together to draft a plan for 2012.
Common tools. Genetics, a strong trait protection package, crop rotation, rainfall patterns and irrigation management are all part of the formula that resulted in Cobb’s yields, notes Randy Rodgers of Service and Supply Coop, New Florence, Mo.
"Management is the key word," Rodgers says. "Charlie is using the tools his crop needs to maximize plant performance, and they are available to everyone. He plans for success and doesn’t simply leave it up to Mother Nature."
- Mid-February 2012