A webinar hosted by a Syngenta agronomist explained how to isolate and identify the best growing practices to optimize yields from corn hybrids.

Andy Heggenstaller, head of agronomy for Syngenta Seed, presented the Sept. 8 webinar, titled “Managing for High Yield: Lessons from NCGA Contest Winners.” He was introduced by Jenna Oesch, vice president of the National Agri-Marketing Association.

Heggenstaller was reporting on the results of a multi-year set of yield experiments conducted on test fields of the University of Illinois. Crop Physiology Lab at test fields in Yorkville, Champaign, and Harrisburg, Illinois All of the tests were on non-irrigated land.

Heggenstaller began by pointing out the average yield differential of 30 bushels per acre between NCGA winners and the national average. It’s common to say that the NCGA winners are benefitting from favorable micro-climates, he said, but the winners are using techniques capturable by anyone.

Heggenstaller divided his presentation into three sections: hybrid selection and placement, planting practices, and crop nutrition and health. Digitization is transforming hybrid selection and placement, he said. The past 15 years of soil and weather data has been captured and is usable by algorithms that can pinpoint which fields are right for which hybrids. They can also produce a “game plan” for managing Golden Harvest corn or other hybrids, tailored for particular fields.

University of Illinois Graduate Research Assistant Eric Winans, in a video clip, discussed planting practices based on intensive corn management trials conducted between 2014 and 2018 at the University of Illinois sites. The research team independently varied five factors: fertility, nitrogen, population, fungicide use, and row spacing. They found that using side dress nitrogen provided the most consistent yield growths. “Additional banded fertility treatment is one of the most significant thing we can do” to boost yield, said Winans. The lowest yields were in the range of 220 bushels per acre, and the highest approached almost 300 bushels.

The effect of proper row spacing was significant in the trials, providing up to 14 extra bushels per acres, but Winans added that such differentials are not always seen in practice. The team found that whether or not increasing population density produces high yields depends on the hybrid variety.

Drew Showalter, strategic marketing manager at Syngenta, said all the data from the research is being combined with internal agronomy research and built into a database.

David Murray can be reached at journal@hpj.com.

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