Welcome to the 2017 BASF Innovations in the Field. This yearlong program is designed to showcase four progressive farmers and their use of technology and agronomic practices to enhance their return on investment and profit potential. Check back each week for new blogs and videos from the farmers as they share their experiences and crop management decisions throughout the growing season. Here is a brief overview of our four participants.
The best corn and soybean farmers like JC Henrekin can do is put themselves in position to cash in on Mother Nature's blessings–even when she throws a curve or two.
"All in all, it's been an awesome growing year," the Deer Grove, Illinois, farmer says. "We had a late dry spell and some weed and disease issues, but I'm pretty optimistic–the crops seemed to handle it well."
Early corn yield estimates indicated 220 to 300 bushel potential. Dry weather may have curbed that somewhat, but temperatures remained relatively cool, and the corn was healthy enough to deal with some stress, he says.
Part of the reason for enhanced plant health was the fungicide applications that have become standard operating procedure on the farm, Henrekin believes.
"There was some evidence of gray leaf spot on the lower leaves, but we applied Headline AMP at silking, and the timing was just perfect. The corn maintained that healthy deep green color through the summer. I think we really hit a home run with the fungicide." Fields were scouted later in the season, and Henrekin didn't feel a second fungicide application was warranted. Soybeans were sprayed with Priaxor at R3 and, although the fungicide doesn't have any direct curative action on Sudden Death Syndrome or white mold that showed up in a few spots, Henrekin firmly believes improved plant health helped the crop deal with those problems.
"I've never seen so many four-bean pods," he says. "They may not all mature, but I think it's a pretty good indicator of the health of the plant."
A key strategy this year for Henrekin was to boost productivity of marginal ground while maintaining good yields on better soils. All corn acres received a nitrogen application at tasselling with a 360 Yield Center Y-Drop System, but the biggest payoff came on the sandy hills and low areas.
"A 10% yield increase estimate on all acres would be conservative," he says, "but on the marginal ground, we've easily seen an added 50 bushels per acre just by making sure the nitrogen was there when the plants needed it."
He also added sulfur–4 gallons of Thio-Sul–to that late application. Yield numbers weren't in at press time, but he expects a positive impact.
Nitrogen was applied at variable rates with the tasselling rate ranging from 40 to 100 units, depending on soil type, previous production and rainfall as indicators of potential nitrogen loss. On all corn acres, approximately half of the expected total nitrogen rate–100 to 120 units depending on the field area–goes on a couple of weeks ahead of planting with an additional 20 units with a preemergence herbicide.
Variable rate seeding was used on all corn acres, ranging from 32,000 to 39,000 seeds per acre. In those sandy areas, Henrekin planted approximately 10,000 seeds per acre less.
For soybeans, the general rate was 140,000 seeds per acre, but he experimented on a 33-acre field, bumping the rate to 160,000 on sandy areas and dropping as low as 90,000 on heavier ground. Those areas will be assessed for yield as well as seed investment.
Henrekin also expects to see a payoff to investments in planter technology. His Case IH planter has been equipped with several Precision Planting enhancements to optimize placement and, ultimately, yield.
"The extremely uniform and consistent stands we achieved in a cool spring and the ear count have made me a believer. It's hard to say what the yield bump will be, but I have to believe when you have plants germinating at the same time as their neighbors that it will have a very positive effect on yields."
With a growing threat from resistant waterhemp, Henrekin switched to dicamba-tolerant soybeans this year so he could use Engenia herbicide, if necessary.
"It was necessary," he says. "We had an increase in waterhemp problems, but the weed control was phenomenal. We ended up using it on the majority of our acres, and it did a great job with no problems."
Henrekin points out they followed the label requirements "to a T" and communicated regularly with their BASF Innovation Specialist Chris Norberg.
"Nozzles, weather conditions, adjuvants, tank mixes, application speed–we did it all by the book, and we didn't have any off-target issues," Henrekin reports. "We're fortunate to have our own sprayer so when it got too windy, we just quit spraying–we avoided that at all costs. And, it worked great. I fully anticipate that we'll be doing it again next year."
Norberg says other farmers in his area had similar success, and he attributes that to communication between his company and the growers. "Any time you have a new technology, communication is critical," he notes. "This is a product with great efficacy, but it has to be used correctly. BASF is committed to helping farmers be good stewards not only of the land but also of a new technology we need to preserve.
"It's been a very rewarding year," Norberg concludes. "When you can make recommendations that help farmers like JC solve problems and be more productive, that's a good feeling."