Mother Nature's No. 1 with crop yields

Extra-high yield gamble doesn't always pay

By Janet Kubat Willette

ROCHESTER, Minn. -- Corn growers can do many things to increase yields, but Mother Nature retains control.

Soils scientist Gyles Randall outlined a list of factors that corn growers can control, ranging from tillage to pest management, at a recent crop management tour. But, he asserted, uncontrollable factors, such as rainfall amount and timing, temperature and frost dates likely have more impact on how well a crop will yield.


Farmers who want to try for contest-winning yields will need to focus on controllable factors, Randall said.

These factors include making sure soil is adequately drained and not compacted. Attention must be paid to soil fertility.

The time of planting and application of starter fertilizer are also important when it comes to striving for record yields.

Early root growth is crucial, Randall said, as is having a well-prepared seed bed. Farmers need to consider how much tillage is necessary for their soil types.

Hybrid selection is also critical. Growers need to consider relative maturity date, susceptibility to lodging, stress tolerance and pest resistance when selecting hybrids, Randall said.

Yields typically get a boost when corn is planted in late April rather than mid-May, he added.

Soil types can't be changed, but play a key role in determining yield potential.

Southeastern Minnesota soils are some of the best in the state, Randall said, with water holding capacity and native productive capacity. The soil also has good organic matter levels.


But when it comes to gambling for extra high yields -- like those achieved by Iowa's Francis Childs -- Randall urged farmers to think small. He recommended farmers experiment on a minimal acreage that isn't subject to nutrient loss to the region's streams and rivers.

Farmers need to consider the impacts of their actions on ground and surface waters, and if the return on investment is worth spending more on inputs.

For some, a trip to Mystic Lake or Jackpot Junction may be a better investment than gambling on super high yields.

What To Read Next
Get Local