Youth in attendance at the Innovative Youth Corn Challenge Banquet were recognized for their efforts. From left to right are Payton Schiller, Kaylea Geiser, Gavin Nelson, Kara Kudera, Rylan Nelson, Logan Nelson, Kade Stromberg, Korbin Kudera, Isaac Stormberg, Matthew Rolf, Ian Schiller, James Rolf, James Rolf, Landon Haskenkamp, Brooke Hilgenkamp and Aaron Fuchs. (Courtesy photo.)

Science, technology, engineering, and math careers are in high demand and will continue to be in future years. To engage youth in crop science-based education, the Innovative Youth Corn Challenge was created as a partnership between the Nebraska Corn Board and Nebraska Extension.

Since the program’s inception in 2012, 46 teams have participated with 27 of them successfully harvesting and analyzing their plot data. A total of 138 youth have participated. This contest, open to 4-H members or FFA members, guides participants through all aspects of corn production, as well as agricultural careers related to corn production. As a team, youth work with an adult mentor throughout the process. Mentors can be UNL extension faculty, ag teachers, or other qualified agronomy professionals.

The 2018 winning team was the Maple Creek Creators 4-H Club of Colfax County, which consisted of Korbin and Kara Kudera. They tested the use of in-furrow fertilizers and did four replications. They found no significant difference with their control plot yielding 233 bushels. Their project sponsor was Kevin Kudera.

Receiving second place was the Rising Stars 4-H Club from Platte County, which consisted of Kade and Isaac Stromberg with Brad Stephens as their sponsor. They tested seeding rates of 30K and 33K, with 27K as their check. They had two replications and found their check of 27K yielded the highest at 257.36 bushels per acre. This was also the most economical of the seeding rates tested.

Third place went to the Lost Creek 4-H Club from Colfax County, which consisted of Logan, Gavin, and Rylan Nelson with Steve Nelson as their sponsor. They tested a Nemastrike corn seed treatment, a new product for nematode control, against a control plot. End results were that both treatments had the exact same yield of 239 bushels per acre. The Nemastrike treatment cost $9.79 per acre so in this case, it was more economical to not use the treatment.

Other awards presented at the program banquet on UNL’s East Campus were:

  • The Extra Mile Award to the Maple Creek 4-H Club.
  • The Innovation Award, worth $200, to the Kornhusker Kids 4-H Club.
  • The Sustainability Award, worth $200, to the Kornhusker Kids 4-H Club (dryland). Their project utilized the Field to Market tool which is a leading multi-stakeholder initiative to unite the agricultural supply chain in defining, measuring, and advancing the sustainability of food, fiber, and fuel production in the United States.

Also, completing plots were:

The Shelton FFA team consisted of Jacob Synder and Andrew Rayburn with Hannah Horak as their advisor. The main topic of their research was plant growth regulators, stimulants, and biologicals. They tested Nachur’s SRN product. They had three replications and found that the crop treated with Nachur’s SRN yielded 217.94 bu/acre. The no-treatment control plot yielded 217.16. While there was essentially no yield difference, there was a $15/acre cost for the Nachur’s SRN.

The Kornhusker Kids 4-H Club included Kaleb and Landon Hasenkamp, Matthew and James Rolf, Levi Schiller, Ian and Payton Schiller. Using their plot in Dodge County, they worked with UNL on an in-season nitrogen management program that had four treatments. They were hoping to validate the plan by making variable rate nitrogen applications according to what the plant needed, thus using nitrogen more efficiently. Their results showed that the grower strips were the best return on investment with a yield of 213 bushels per acre. The Climate treatment yielded 213 bushels per acre. The Project SENSE treatment yielded 210 bushels per acre and the reference strip yielded 224 bushels per acre. It is important to note that this team randomized their treatments and had three replications of the plots, which is important in figuring out the statistical significance. Their project sponsor was Chris Schiller.

The Fillmore Central FFA team consisted of Brock and Carson Tatro, Jared Engle, Gunner Gewecke, Conner Nun, Kaylea Geiser and KayLynn Sieber with Kurt VanDeWalle as their sponsor. They wanted to test seeding rates to see if there would be an increased yield without having poorer stalk quality. They tested seeding rates at 35K and 32K. The 35K yielded 229 bushels per ac and the 32K yielded 280 bushels per acre.

Golden Gate Clever Clovers 4-H club consisted of Aaron Fuchs and Brooke Hilgenkamp with Michael Fuchs and Nathan Mueller as their sponsors. They tested seeding depths of 2 inches and 2.75 inches and found that the 2-inch depth yielded 191.51 bushels per acre and the 2.75-inch seeding depth yielded 196.06 bushels per acre. They had four replications.

To participate in the Innovative Youth Corn Challenge in  2019, youth must complete and return an entry form by March 15 to the Fillmore County Extension Office in Geneva. Forms can be downloaded at For more information, contact Brandy VanDeWalle at

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