- David Hula made big farming news in 2011 when we won the corn yield contest with 429 bushels of corn per acre. Ronnie Heiniger set out to duplicate Hula’s feat with a test he calls Hula 400.
The old-fashioned way
“We applied nitrogen at these later stages of growth the old fashioned way — with a hand sprayer, which is ideal for a small plot demonstration, but of course not practical in commercial production,” Heiniger says.
“However, nitrogen can easily be put on through irrigation equipment, and in most years to reach these ultra high yields in the Southeast, a grower is going to have to have irrigation,” he adds.
Al Wood, veteran Extension agent in Pasquotank County says 2012 might not have been the best year to seek ultra high yields because growing conditions were so good throughout the growing season.
“Yields at this site were outstanding across the board, and I think there are three compelling reasons for these high corn yields: Rain was constant throughout the growing season, including 15 inches in May, which may have restricted light needed for ultra high yields; the soil is outstanding — six foot deep topsoil; and the previous crop was cabbage, which left a good residual supply of fertilizer,” Wood says.
In addition, he adds, “Charles Gray and his sons are outstanding farmers, so everything was done just like we asked them to do it.”
The top yield in the Hula 400 test started out with planting a hybrid with high yield potential. In this case Pioneer 1615 corn was planted.
A double application of starter fertilizer was applied, using 3-18-18 at five gallons per acre in the furrow and a 2X2 application of 11-37-0 to supply a total of 40-50 pounds of nitrogen and 70 pounds or so of phosphorous in the front end of the plant to get it up and growing vigorously.
At side-dress a weed control herbicide was applied along with more nitrogen and even more nitrogen was applied at tassle.
The North Carolina researchers also used the extra nitrogen in combination with two fungicide applications and also tested the dual fungicide without the extra nitrogen.
“We got a good response from the extra nitrogen and we got a good response from the two fungicides. We thought we would get an extra yield bounce from a combination of the nitgrogen and fungicides, but that didn’t happen—neither of the treatments alone was equal to the combination,” Heiniger says.
Though the tests were designed to simulate David Hula’s record 429 bushel per acre corn yield, it wasn’t exactly the same.
Hula, who farms near Charles City, Va., on land that has been cultivated since the 1700s, says nitrogen timing is an important part of an overall system he uses to grow high yielding corn, but other factors are involved.
One key for Hula is the concept of ‘never-till’. “We don’t till anything and haven’t for a long time. By creating what we call a ‘high yield environment’ that includes intensive soil tests, tissue analysis, foliar nutrient applications and adding micronutrients where needed and not tilling our corn ground, we have doubled our organic matter over the past few years,” Hula says.