In 2013, two trials were conducted in the Mississippi river delta of Arkansas to evaluate which factors impact corn yield, says Kelley. Factors evaluated included deep tillage, starter in-furrow fertilizer, higher seeding rates, additional fertilizer and foliar fungicides. 

All of these factors were evaluated separately and then combined together into a high-yield system. When combined together, the high-yield corn system increased yields by as much as 40 bushels per acre.

“In our high-yield system we had about 390 units of nitrogen versus about 240 units, which would be our standard. The difference was 13 bushels with all of that extra fertilizer. So fertility wasn’t that limiting," he said.

The average yield in the two systems was 293 and 297 bushels per acre, says Kelley.

“But the big picture to me is how much all of those extra inputs cost. Our numbers will be different from yours, but our costs were as follows: Deep tillage - $12; in-furrow starter fertilizer – $25; increased plant population - $30; seed insecticide - $27 per bag; and two fungicide applications with an airplane - $50.

“Altogether, we had almost $275 in extra costs. At $4.50-per bushel corn, we needed 60 bushels to break even, and we got almost 40," he said.

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