What is in this article?:
- Southeast corn growers share key details on how they achieve high yields
- North Alabama grower utilizes poultry litter
- Kirkland irrigates his entire corn crop
- Georgia grower has best and worst crop in one year
- Corn producers from Alabama and Georgia recently discussed a few of their key production practices at the Alabama Corn/Wheat Short Course.
Technology only gets a grower so far. From soil sampling, to burndown, to planting, to aggressive weed and water management to timely everything, good growers have to earn high corn yields.
CORN PRODUCERS SHARED some of their key production practices during the Alabama Corn/Wheat Short Course, held in central Alabama in mid-December. Shown are, left to right, Randy Dowdy of southwest Georgia, Jared Darnell of north Alabama, and Thomas Kirkland of southeast Alabama.
Georgia grower has best and worst crop in one year
Randy Dowdy farms about 25 miles north of the Florida line, growing corn, peanuts, soybeans and wheat, with price dictating what he grows.
“I try to double-crop wheat and beans, but it’s tough because we have a wheat basis of about a negative $1 or $1.50. This past year, I had 300 acres of peanuts and almost 500 acres of corn. We don’t grow any cotton,” he says.
Dowdy’s corn harvest typically depends on when he plants. In 2012, he was finished with planting corn by the third week in March, and he harvested corn by the third week in July.
“When we got the land ready, we planted soybeans after corn, from Aug. 1 to Aug. 3. As soon as the corn was out of the way, we planted, and we averaged 45 bushels per acre,” he says.
It all depends on when the corn can be harvested, says Dowdy.
“For 2013, the corn didn’t come off until the end of August, and we planted iron clay peas into about half of the acreage. But we were very limited this past year. I’ve thought about planting grain sorghum late but haven’t tried it yet. We need a short-season grain sorghum to be able to do it.”
He sprays atrazine in a burndown treatment for corn, with 2, 4-D and Roundup, coming back with Roundup and atrazine for a pre-emergence.
“Then we come back with Roundup and atrazine again if we have any escapes. We’re putting out only 1 to 1.5 pints to 1 quart each time, but it has been very effective on our pigweed control.”
Dowdy plants 36-inch twin rows. This past year I experimented with 30-inch rows. The 36-inch twin rows are 12 inches apart. We’ll do a lot of side-by-side testing to see how the 30-inch rows perform for us.”
He has been farming since 2006, and had to learn how to contour farm on his land. “We’ve got some very poor soils and rolling terrain, with probably 50 to 60-feet elevation changes. I strip-till out of necessity on some of my land, and we can get away with conventional-tillage in other fields. I don’t have a preference one way or the other, and I don’t see much difference from a yield standpoint.”
Dowdy pulls soil samples in the fall because he wants to know what he has immediately after the crop is finished.
“I’ll do it again in the spring. It costs me $5 to $6 to pull a soil sample and get it analyzed, and that’s my last chance to correct it before I plant.
“Typically, I’ll pull soil samples in 2.5 to 5-acre grids in the summer just ahead of the double-cropping if we have the opportunity. Then, I’ll pull a sample again just before I plant because that’s my last chance to make corrections.
“I like to experiment with poultry litter, but we don’t have a reliable source. It’s $45 to $47 per ton spread on the field. With dry fertilizer I have a guaranteed analysis and uniformity.”
Dowdy has a goal of what he wants his phosphorus and potash levels to be.
“We will variable-rate, taking into account if we’re going to fertigate or plow it in, and we’ll spread a little P and K.
“I’m planting with a twin-row planter, and I’ve got a 2 by 2 applicator, 2 inches to the side and 2 inches below the seed. If I’m planting 2 inches deep, I’m placing fertilizer 4 inches deep. We have potash, phosphorus and minor elements in that 2 by 2, and we plant slowly.”
Uniformity is a key, he says, and he wants plants to come up in 12 to 24 hours.
“Consistent seed depth and knowing our soil temperatures is important, and we monitor the weather two to three weeks before we plant. I want that soil temperature to be 56 degrees F. at 2 inches deep. You’re stuck for the rest of the year with what you do at planting, so don’t get in a hurry.”
He applies an insecticide in-furrow and Poncho 1250 seed treatment as insurance. He’ll also have some fungicide on his seed, something he considers a minor investment considering the protection it provides.
His plant populations range from 36,000 to 42,000 or 44,000 per acre.
“This past year, with our weather conditions, I picked some of my best corn ever and some of my worst corn ever. In the future, I’ll have more diversity in my plant population. We’ll try to spread our risks there and also spread it across relative maturities.”
Dowdy encourages other farmers to conduct their own variety trials on their farms.
“Plant eight or 10 hybrids and know what will work best with your tillage practices and on your farm. I fertigiate because I want to constantly feed my crop. But we need to know more about micronutrients as it relates to yield, and I think that’s one of our largest yield-limiting factors.”