Farm Journal hosts its broadest-reaching trainings yet
This past summer, more than 850 farmers headed to the field with Farm Journal. The Corn College series of events added a campus and more comprehensive coursework to help farmers take their yields to the next level using the Systems Approach.
The events are led by Farm Journal Field Agronomists Ken Ferrie and Missy Bauer, who mix classroom sessions with in-the-field breakouts. During the week of July 18 at the Illinois campus, just south of Bloomington, Ferrie focused the Corn College Advanced curriculum on water.
"The decision to make water the theme was based on feedback from past Corn College events and my public speaking travels," Ferrie says. "I got the sense that water is a component of production that farmers don’t have their arms around."
The week kicked off with a one-day event for consultants and ag retailers to teach them how to assist farmers with production challenges. The two consecutive two-day events that followed attracted farmers from 21 states from Connecticut to Louisiana to Wyoming and the Corn Belt in between.
To illustrate how water and tillage go hand in hand, one breakout session featured a series of pits showing the different soil density profiles left after tillage passes. The concept was brought to life with a tillage demonstration, a Corn College first and attendee favorite, in a breakout that reinforced the importance of running tillage tools at the proper depth to manage the soil profile. Bauer presented breakout sessions on controlled drainage and irrigation, which included her latest data on pivot calibration.
The in-field diagnostics breakout gave attendees the opportunity to head to the field for hands-on training with compaction meters to measure the depth of soil density changes. With spades and hatchets, they dug and dissected corn plants to learn what errors were made with the tillage pass that impacted growth.
To help farmers fine-tune their management techniques, one breakout session focused on making variable-rate work and the technologies necessary to wirelessly transfering data for prescription maps and as-applied maps from the field to the office.
Ferrie laid a foundation for micro-nutrient management with a general session on the ABCs of sulfur, followed by a hands-on clinic on identifying nutrient deficiencies in live plants.
Purdue University Extension specialist Fred Whitford presented on the risks of transporting farm equipment, covering everything from hitches to liability issues.
Michigan campus. During the first week of August, Farm Journal hosted the first-ever Soybean College and Corn College Fundamentals sessions, in Coldwater, Mich., at Bauer’s facilities. These events were created in response to popular demand following the original Corn College event, as well as hearing from farmers who say their corn and soybean yields have plateaued. In fact, a handful of farmers attended Corn College Advanced in Illinois and both events in Michigan.
The Soybean College curriculum centered around in-field breakout sessions on topics that included making replant decisions, identifying growth stages, calculating defoliation and performing sprayer calibration.
"With soybeans, there are a lot of little things we can do to add up to yield increases," Bauer says.
Attendees from 16 states, Canada and Mexico had the opportunity to learn from high-yield soybean farmer Kip Cullers, who led a breakout and answered questions about how they can take their yields to the next level.
General sessions provided the foundation for farmers to increase soybean yields with presentations on soybean growth and development, as well as disease, pest and weed management.
Agronomist Bill Bauer shared field data on row spacing and populations. Michigan State University professor Marty Chilvers joined Bauer to lead a hands-on breakout session on identifying soilborne pathogens, with help from multiple plants that exhibited various symptoms.
As a first-time event, Corn College Fundamentals introduced farmers to the Systems Approach and sent them home with information to increase their corn bushels.
"With our events in Illinois, we kept elevating the curriculum, so this event was designed to introduce a first-time attendee to Corn College," Bauer says.
Popular in-the-field breakout sessions addressed soil density management, nitrogen management and identifying corn diseases. Bauer set the foundation with general sessions on the basics of soil and how to know a good stand when you see it. Another breakout session included a presentation on yield maps and the importance of collecting data.
Ferrie presented a general session via live videoconference on managing the carbon penalty. Farm Journal Economist Bob Utterback gave farmers his outlook on the markets.
The following sponsors helped make these events possible: Corn College Advanced—Ag Leader Technology, AgriGold, Agrotain, BASF, Chevy, DeKalb, EMD, ESN Smart Nitrogen, Great Plains Manufacturing, National Corn Growers Association, Precision Planting, SFP, Top Third Ag Marketing; Soybean College—BASF, Great Plains Manufacturing, SFP; Corn College
Fundamentals—Agrotain, BASF, Great Plains Manufacturing, Pioneer Hi-Bred, Precision Planting, SFP.