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Mosaic brings Pursuit of 300 tour to far western Corn Belt

By Larry Dreiling

Mosaic Co. brought its Pursuit of 300 campaign to the far western Corn Belt recently by featuring a northwest Kansas farmer as one of six growers the company has recruited to examine the goal of reaching 300 bushels of corn per acre on his farm.

Mitchell Baalman, who farms west of Hoxie, Kan., is one of six growers from six states who is participating in the Mosaic program with the goal of increasing yields across all productivity levels, environments and cropping systems.

“There are a lot of smart people out there and it is definitely worth the time it takes to meet with them and talk with them about the best use of technology and how to move yields forward,” Baalman said.

Baalman, a third-generation farmer, operates FDK Partnership, a 12,000-acre farm that grows corn following soybeans, along with wheat, milo and sunflowers. The original farmstead, Baalman and Sons, was one of the first in the area to use pivot irrigation in 1959.

FDK continues to pay close attention to water stewardship today striving to maintain a sustainable operation for future generations, as Baalman and his wife, Lola, hope to successfully pass on the farm to their four children. Mosaic officials, who said this program is not out to seek high yields at all costs, invited media to FDK to see Baalman’s operation and to view a field he was growing with the goal of reaching 300 bushels of corn per acre.

“This is not a yield contest,” a Mosiac statement said. “We pursue yield increases that provide a solid return on investment for the farmers who grow them. Success also requires that we increase yield through stable production systems that also provide protection for the environment through best practices of 4R (right fertilizer source, at the right rate, at the right time and in the right place) Nutrient Stewardship principles.”

Through the program, Baalman was able to meet with other Pursuit of 300 growers and other agronomic experts and industry thought leaders to share ideas and stimulate discussion on what it’s going to take to reach that 300-bushel goal. Each Pursuit farmer has worked with a Mosaic agronomist and retail partners to develop specific plans for the Pursuit fields, of which at least 100 acres are dedicated to new agronomy practices, to increase yields and maximize efficiency.

In Baalman’s case, he selected a 122-acre parcel for the Pursuit test. Working with Mosaic agronomist Curt Woolfolk, crop consultant Brett Oelke and Clay Scanlon, a representative for local Mosaic retailer Crop Production Services, Inc., they worked to come up with a new plan to increase yields.

“We increased the seed rate from the traditional 32,000 seeds per acre to 36,000,” Baalman said. “We slowed down the planter about a half mile per hour to increase the precision of planting and we applied the micronutrient boron at about the V7 stage of growth to strengthen pollination and increase silk length.

“The addition of the boron has really made a big difference in how the crop looks.”

A hailstorm pushed through the field on July 3, so that 300-bushel goal is out the window, but Baalman thinks the field can reach somewhere between 265 to 270 bushels. Baalman added an extra treatment of nitrogen, along with an herbicide, miticide, and sulfur to help the crop recover from the hail.

Baalman is also using less water than previous years, due to his membership in the Sheridan Six Local Enhanced Management Area (LEMA), which will work to reduce water consumption from the Ogallala Aquifer by 20 percent over the next five years.

Baalman said one thing he has learned by participating in the Mosaic program is there’s much to learn.

“I think we are on the right track with this program and I’m looking forward to meeting with our team again this fall when we get all the harvest data. We will going through all that data and making decisions about what we want to do again, what we want to change and what else we might try.”

Larry Dreiling can be reached by phone at 785-628-1117, or by email at ldreiling@aol.com.

Date: 10/14/2013

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