|The Farm Journal Test Plots reveal plant health and population as two keys to better silage production.
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After three years, the Farm Journal Test Plots have wrapped up their effort to maximize corn silage production. Located at the Illinois State University Research Farm, the test plot was designed to demonstrate how plant population, row spacing and fungicide application can impact silage yields in terms of tonnage and quality.
Key finding: Increasing population is key to increasing tonnage. In addition, narrow-row silage production increased tonnage without compromising quality as measured in milk tons per acre.
"Since population seems to be king in determining tonnage, we wanted to know what narrowing the rows would do to quality, as well,” says Ken Ferrie, Farm Journal Field Agronomist. "Narrow rows and high populations push the environment for disease, so in the second and third years we added a fungicide application to evaluate its impact.”
In 2008, we chopped the third year of silage data comparing 30" rows and twin rows on 7.5" centers at 33,000 and 37,000 plants per acre, respectively. We planted two fields, 70 acres total, with a 40' Great Plains Yield-Pro planter.
"Using one planter eliminated any variables in having to use two planters with different metering systems, transmission settings or depth settings,” Ferrie explains.
At harvest, the chopper was equipped with GPS, so each load was logged and referenced by soil type” Ferrie says. The silage harvester was also equipped with a kernel processor.
The silage results were evaluated with the University of Wisconsin's Milk 2006 test.
With an aerial application when the corn was tasselling, a plot partner applied Bayer Stratego fungicide, which has a harvest restriction of 30 days in silage.
"Paybacks were huge with a fungicide on silage,” Ferrie says. "In twin rows, the response to fungicide was at both populations with higher pounds of milk per acre.”
In pounds of milk per acre, where the fungicide was applied compared with the control, we saw no response in 30" rows at 33,000 plants per acre; an 8% increase in 30" rows at 37,000 plants per acre; a 16% increase in twin rows at 33,000 plants per acre; and a 23% increase in twin rows at 37,000 plants per acre.
Without the fungicide application there was an 11% increase in milk per acre in the twin rows compared with the 30" rows at 33,000 plants per acre. There was a 6% increase in twin rows compared with the 30" rows at 37,000 plants per acre.
Where the fungicide was applied, there was a 29% increase for twin rows compared with 30" rows at 33,000 plants per acre and a 21% increase for twin rows compared with 30"at 37,000 plants per acre.
"In the past, population was a big part of the tonnage result and that showed up in the pounds of milk per acre,” Ferrie says. "Adding a fungicide treatment raised the question of whether our populations in the plot were high enough.”
As he reviews the three-year effort, Ferrie says plant health and population are king in silage production. He notes that the results encourage him not to take silage for granted and to be aware of disease pressures in silage, especially at high populations and narrow row spacings.
"Twin Rows Yield Tonnage,” September 2007
"Twin Rows' Cutting Edge,” Mid-November 2008