Academy for Higher Yields

August 23, 2013 09:58 PM
Academy for Higher Yields

Farmers head to the field for lessons on how to finish strong before corn and soybean harvests

With the goal of helping farmers put more bushels in the bin, Farm Journal hosted its annual series of in-field Corn College and Soybean College events. Led by Farm Journal Field Agronomists Ken Ferrie and Missy Bauer, the agronomic training attracted almost 1,000 farmers from 28 states.

"Every year, our agendas are different and reflect the topics farmers are asking about," Ferrie explains. "This year, in particular, we focused on increasing the take-home value and spent more time answering questions."

Designed by Ferrie and Bauer, the two campuses—in Heyworth, Ill., and Coldwater, Mich.—model the Systems Approach. In addition to the Farm Journal Field Agronomists, agronomic coaches walk small groups of farmers through several breakout sessions.

The Illinois events, known as Corn College Advanced, are designed for returning Corn College attendees and farmers with a solid foundation in the Systems Approach.

"I’m impressed, the information is current, and I can take this home and use it on my farm," says Jerry Dunville from Slaughters, Ky., who has attended all six years of events.

Ferrie led four events in July—a one-day session for consultants/retailers, a one-day session for farmers, a two-day session for farmers and a new one-day Corn College Grad School.

"The curriculum focused on nitrogen management, soil health, disease management and herbicide application and resistance issues," he says.

IMG 3208 edit

Attendees at Soybean College learned about the yield components of the plant during hands-on sessions in the field.

In the field, Ferrie and Bauer used an 8-acre nitrogen plot to illustrate the impact of timing, placement, product and environment with all treatments adding up to the same nitrogen rate.

"Because of the open format, this demonstration was relevant to every attendee, no matter what geography or environment they farm," Ferrie says.

In-field herbicide diagnostics gave farmers the opportunity to evaluate modes of action, application method and timing. To strengthen their disease detection skills, farmers participated in an exercise using live plants and the disease triangle. A combine clinic challenged farmers to rethink how they set up their combines to reduce losses. Purdue University’s Fred Whitford presented on how to safely extract equipment stuck in mud.

On July 17 during a live "AgriTalk" broadcast, Ferrie and Bauer shared insights on this year’s crop challenges. The next day, a live "U.S. Farm Report" Market Roundtable taping featured Farm Journal Economist Bob Utter­back, Mark Gold from Top Third Ag Marketing and Mike North from First Capitol Ag.

Closing out the Illinois events, Corn College Grad School was a first-time, private-pay event with no sponsors.

"We focused the entire day around our curriculum, and we limited the class size for smaller groups and more hands-on experience," Ferrie says.

Dual lessons. During the last week of July, three events took place in Coldwater, Mich., where the campus included both soybeans and corn. A one-day event for consultants and retailers incorporated both crops.

Then a one-day Soybean College attracted almost 200 farmers from 19 states and two Canadian provinces.

"With soybeans, farmers can get easily frustrated when trying to increase their yields," Bauer explains. "Start by knowing the yield components, as well as growth stages and timing of stress. Then there are management techniques that can increase yields a few bushels at a time."

The Soybean College lineup included general sessions on: managing for high-yield soybeans, under­standing yield components, how to evaluate the benefits of vertical tillage and an update
on aphid pressures. Breakout sessions included: soybean disease diagnostics, tips to manage soy- bean cyst nematodes, growth stages and insect scouting. Purdue’s Whitford presented on the role water quality plays in pesticide performance. During dinner, BASF sponsored Fred Below, University of Illinois, to present "The Six Secrets to Increase Soybean Yield." A live "AgriTalk" broadcast featured Soybean College presenters Missy Bauer, Bill Bauer and Brad Beutke.

Corn College Fundamentals, a two-day event, was designed to introduce farmers to the Systems Approach with engaging general sessions that included: set the stage for high corn yields, how to define farming in the vertical format and where to begin with variable-rate pop­u­lation. The hands-on break­out sessions included: soil-density evaluations in pits, in-field corn diagnostics, how to build management zones, keys to evaluate a nitro­gen program and corn root ball diagnostics. Purdue’s Whitford again presented a program on how to safely extract equipment that is stuck.

"We try to make the Corn College Fundamentals program as hands-on as possible," Bauer says. "That gives farmers the best foundation in the Systems Approach. Our soil pits, for example, generate a lot of eagerness to learn more and understand soil density."

If there’s a common theme at all of the Corn and Soybean College events, it is that there’s always more to learn.

Thanks to the following sponsors: Corn College Advanced—AgriGold, Agrium Advanced Technologies, BASF, Chevrolet, Great Plains Mfg., Honeywell, Koch Agronomic Services, Novozymes, Precision Planting, SFP, Top Third Ag Marketing; Soybean College—BASF, Great Plains Mfg., Novozymes, Precision Planting, Plant Tuff, SFP, Top Third Ag Marketing, Wolf Trax; and Corn College Fundamentals—BASF, Great Plains Mfg., Koch Agronomic Services, Precision Planting, Plant Tuff, SFP, Top Third Ag Marketing, Wolf Trax. 

For video, audio and additional coverage from the Corn College and Soybean College events, visit

Go Back to School in 2014

Corn College 3
Wheat College

Throughout the year, you can attend a series of agronomic training events with Farm Journal experts Ken Ferrie, Missy Bauer and Phil Needham. These events include Planter Clinics, Corn College Fundamentals, Corn College Advanced, Soybean College and Wheat College.

Registration opens Oct. 1. Call (877) 482-7203 or go to for dates, locations and to register.

You can e-mail Margy Eckelkamp at

Back to news



Spell Check

No comments have been posted to this News Article

Corn College TV Education Series


Get nearly 8 hours of educational video with Farm Journal's top agronomists. Produced in the field and neatly organized by topic, from spring prep to post-harvest. Order now!


Market Data provided by
Brought to you by Beyer