Saturday, December 19, 2009

Catlin, Illinois Soil Management Teams Gets 300 Bushel Corn

Catlin soil firm's mix has corn yields hitting new heights

By Christine Des Garennes
Saturday December 19, 2009
Rick Danzl
Total Soil Management technical services manager Randy Simonson, left, holds some of the company's micronutrient mix Friday in Catlin as company President Larry Schonert shows the mix they used to help produce a 300-plus-bushels-per-acre corn yield in their research plots near Catlin this season.
CATLIN – The state average for corn yields in Illinois this year is 175 bushels per acre. And farmers are quite pleased if they can bring in 200 bushels per acre to the grain elevator.
But 300 bushels per acre?
"We were surprised. You don't hear of 300-bushel-an-acre very often," said Larry Schonert, president of and an agronomist with Total Soil Management, a soil-fertility firm in Catlin.
After harvesting corn from their research plots and crunching their data, the firm learned six of the plots near Catlin yielded more than 300 bushels per acre. The highest yield was at 320 bushels per acre. The plots included several different corn hybrids.
"First and foremost, we've got Mother Nature to thank," Schonert said.
You know that old saying, "Rain makes grain?"
"That's obviously true," he said.
Between May and August, the Danville area received about 19 inches of rain, according to Illinois State Water Survey data.
And – this may not come as a surprise, since the firm makes fertilizer recommendations to fertilizer dealers and farmers – it doesn't hurt to have a good soil-fertility program.
"We believe in having what we call a balanced fertilizer program," said Randy Simonson, technical services manager with Total Soil Management. Staff apply the usual nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium but also micronutrients such as sulfur, zinc, manganese, boron, copper and iron.
"We want to provide the crop with everything it needs," Simonson said.
In the spring they plant slowly, making sure the planter puts the seeds precisely down in the furrow, and they plant "a good population of seeds – about 35,000 plants per acre. That's a little higher than what most people plant, but most corn hybrids can handle that population," Simonson said.
He uses a pre-emergent herbicide and then, if he encounters problems with weeds during the growing season, he may apply Roundup as needed. Fertilizer is applied in the spring, and he uses a slow-release nitrogen. The benefit to that is if a heavy rain comes it won't wash away half the nitrogen, sending the nitrogen into the ditches and stream.
The company's plots have yielded some big numbers before, but they've never seen anything close to 300 bushels or above.
"I think the envelope is going to keep being pushed. Hybrids also have a lot to do with it. They also are getting better and better," Schonert said.

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