Looking over FC Co-op’s test plots

FARNHAMVILLE – No matter the price that corn sells for, it’s still a bushels market.

With that assessment, Todd Claussen, FC Cooperative’s director of agronomy and technical services, opened a four-hour test plot tour on Aug. 21 at the co-op’s facility in Farnhamville.

With more than 300 area farmers attending, Claussen said the 175 acres on test plots in and around Farnhamville were designed to test the efficacy of a 17 touted practices including fertilizer application rates, planting dates, planting depths, population densities and foliar treatments.

“You cannot increase yield, all we can do is protect yield potential,” Claussen said.

Tom Hoegemeyer, president of Hoegemeyer Hybrids, based in Nebraska, offered a brief history of corn’s history, from its first cultivation by native cultures in Central America, its spread as indigenous people took corn with them, to the 21st century GMO breeding and mapping the grain’s genome.

Tour participants mounted five shuttles that moved them systematically through the various test plots explaining the tests and early indications of what practices and products may have on plant health and yield protection.

“We’re only scrapping the surface of corn genetics,” Hoegemeyer said. “There are 300 races of corn and we are using only two.”

One small plot was a demonstration showing the differences in hybrids from each decade from the 1950s.

Brian Galloway, of Jamaica, said he was interested in looking them over.

“I wanted to see the type of corn my grandfather was working with,” Galloway said. “I’ve never seen (1950s corn) before. It looks good.

“I’m surprised.”

Plot tour stops included:

Twin Twenty rows: FC is conducting a Stine Seeds population density plot with 54,000 plants per acre in a Twin Twenty configuration – twin rows, 8 inches apart, on 20-inch centers. Claussen told farmers that ears in a plot with 33,000 plants had 17 rows, compared to 15 in the high-population plot; and 38 kernels to a row, compared to 33 kernels in the high-population plot.

However, the anticipated yield for the 33,000 plant plot is at 248 bushels per acre, compared to 311 bpa in the Twin Twenty plot, due to 22,000 more ears to harvest.

But the extra plants require more management investment.

“Will it be profitable?” Claussen said. “We’ll tell you after harvest, because I don’t know.

“But right now, I’m real taken by this.”

In-furrow treatments: Dave Lemke, FC’s agronomy lead for west central Iowa, spoke to farmers about a plot that used seven different in-furrow treatments, plus one plot with all seven treatments and another with none of the seven.

The plot was to show how different products aided better root systems, developed bigger ears and encouraged earlier emergence.

Not surprisingly, Lemke said, the plot with all seven treatments had the best root systems and ears, but escalated production costs substantially.

The plot would allow farmers to compared treatment effectiveness to protect the most yield potential without breaking the bank, especially with corn futures below $4 per bushel.

Soybean planting dates: A number of planting dates were examined in one plot, where agronomists recommended planting soybeans in the last week of April if possible, even though doing so ran the risk of damage from a late-spring frost.

Farmers were told that earlier-planted beans have a chance of adding more nodes up to summer solstice than soybean plants planted in late May or early June.