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Test Plot Roundup: Hybrids, Corn Nematodes, Row Spacing and Starter Additives

March 12, 2011
By: Margy Eckelkamp, Farm Journal Machinery Editor and Test Plot Director

In 2010, the Farm Journal Test Plots program harvested its 19th year of third-party, independent demonstration research. From soybean row spacing–the longest running study—to evaluating controls for emerging pests such as corn nematodes, the test plots head to the field each season to provide farmers with research they can apply to their own fields. Here’s a look at four of the topics: fixed and flex hybrids, corn nematode controls, row spacing and starter additives.

Responsive Hybrid Management

Out in the field, Farm Journal Field Agronomist Ken Ferrie has witnessed how stress affects different hybrids. Stress can be caused by water management, lack of nitrogen, disease or plant density. To learn how to maximize yields, Ferrie has 12 years of plots looking at population and hybrids.

"In my experience, all hybrids have a considerable ability to flex forward when population is low. However, in our plots, hybrids that are grouped as flex hybrids have more of a potential to flex backward when under stress of any source compared to the hybrids grouped as fixed ear type," Ferrie says.

flex hybrid n plotTo learn more about not leaving yield behind, Ferrie planted four genetics from AgriGold Hybrids, two of which were classified as flex hybrids and two as fixed hybrids. In 2010, the second year of this test plot, the field was in a corn after soybean rotation and the base application of nitrogen was 150 lb.

"We split the planter and planted each hybrid at 32,000, 34,000 and 36,000 plants per acre," Ferrie explains. "Then we sidedressed at three rates: 60 lb., 90 lb., 120 lb."

With one of the flex hybrids, there was a 60 bu. loss in the replications planted to 36,000 compared with the 32,000 plants per acre when only 60 lb. of nitrogen was sidedressed.

"As in our previous studies, the fixed hybrid has a more determinant ear type and tends to respond more as population increases," Ferrie says. "And those fixed hybrids have less of a tendency to go backward in yield when they are under stress."

Ferrie cautions that reaching the next yield goal is not as simple as pushing populations higher and higher. Make sure adequate nitrogen and water is also available. Turn to your seed salesperson for the most accurate information on the corn hybrids you plant and how to position them with your management practices.

In the Hot Zone

Nematodes are an emerging pest, and one that the Farm Journal Test Plots program has been studying for more than five years.

"The threat posed by these pests is increasing," Ferrie says. "With more no-till and reduced tillage as well as more acres in corn-on-corn, nematode pressures have increased."

The test plot crews in central Illinois, led by Ferrie, and in southern Michigan, led by Farm Journal Associate Field Agronomist Missy Bauer, have GPS mapped the hot spots for high nematode pressure.

nematode comp"We went out into the field and tested for nematodes," Bauer says. "With the soil samples, NDVI maps and yield maps, we could ground truth the hot spots of high nematode pressure. It’s important to know where your nematode pressure spots are, and nematodes can be hard to identify because the only way to diagnose the problem is by pulling soil samples and having them analyzed in the lab."

Bauer’s nematode testing included 366 samples across more than 7,000 acres, and 97.5% of samples had corn nematodes.

Ferrie and Bauer both put out test plots with today’s available nematode controls including Avicta Complete Corn from Syngenta and Votivo from Bayer treated on AgriGold Hybrid seed. Both agronomists ran split planter trials to observe the response across the fields and especially in the known high pressure zones.

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FEATURED IN: Farm Journal - March 2011

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