FARM JOURNAL/MARCH           1983                                                               Editors Note: With corn al...
thats going on all over the country this winter. Louis                                                                    ...
Richard Uhrenholdt questioned whether residue de-          leaves from drying out, and you get less stalk rot. serves that...
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Farm Journal Mar 83 - Herman Warsaw


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This article in the March 83' issue of Farm Journal discusses high yield corn production.

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Farm Journal Mar 83 - Herman Warsaw

  1. 1. FARM JOURNAL/MARCH 1983 Editors Note: With corn already in such surplus, S u r p l u s e s o r n o . . . you may ask why FARM JOURNAL continues to focus on higher yields. Our answer is that food produc- tion is the farmers purpose in life; that no matter how many nor how few acres you decide to grow this year, your goal will still be to produce the high- N e w est yield that gives you the lowest cost per bushel. • When a third, successive record corn crop began taking shape last summer, FARM JOURNAL editors de- c o r n y i e l d cided it was time to reappraise production trends with this amazing crop. We invited four outstanding growers to Illinois, there to visit some top farms and then talk about corns future. The new record national average of 114.8 bu. per i n c r e a s e s acre announced by USDA last month confirms both the timeliness of, and conclusions from, our meet- ing. Surpluses or no, we have more corn yield in- creases coming. And the key to future increases is a h e a d the same as that to last years big crop: Water! Though all four farmers (photo) were chosen for Farm Journal recently all-around corn-growing ability, two of the four are already irrigating: Ike Newberry of Early County, brought these four top corn Ga., and Richard Uhrenholdt of Antelope County, Neb. And a third, Louis Shininger of Defiance g r o w e r s t o g e t h e r to look County, Ohio, is using it for backup in dry years. But clearly the one who has been most innovative at t h e i r — a n d your—future. in bringing extra water to his crop was our host, Herman Warsaw of McLean County, 111. Yet War- Heres what they see saw gives no thought to irrigation in his future, andl> By LANE PALMER, Edit P oo Fe Leavitt ht rd EXPERIMENT WITH EXTRA LIGHT by Fred Welch, University of Illinois, interested our panelists (from left): Ike Newberry, Georgia; Louis Shininger, Ohio; Herman Warsaw, Illinois; Richard Uhrenholdt, Nebraska.FR J U N L A C 1 8A M O R A/ R H 9 3 M 19
  2. 2. thats going on all over the country this winter. Louis Shininger agrees with Warsaw on fall chiseling. "Our chiseled ground dries out quicker so we can get on it T h e h a r d e r y o u p u s h earlier in the spring," he said. "But usually the land that we moldboard stays wet." Warsaw smiled and added: "And a lot more of your for yields, t h e b e t t e r spring rains will run off your moldboarded land; it will erode more; and then it will be the first to dry out." it is for t h e s o i l . " Warsaws deep root zone impressed all of us, espe- cially Ike Newberry, who has to contend with severe compaction in his area. "I dont see how you can pull — H e r m a n Warsaw chisels 15" deep," he said. "You dont do it all at o n c e , " Warsaw assured him. "It takes several years to loosen up the soil. We started chiseling at 8" to 10"—about the same depth we had been plowing. We got our yields up to 180 to for good reason: Last year, for the fourth time on the 190 bu. and decided we had to get the water down same field, he topped 300 bu. per acre! And he had a deeper. It took us about three years to work the chisels second field go over that mark last year. down to 15". Maybe thats why Ive never seen a field "Residue management is the key, " Warsaw told us respond to deep chiseling in less than four years." time and again during our two-day visit. "These prair- Heres how Warsaws 1978 results from profile ie soils were not built with a plow. They were built by samples reflect benefits of deep chiseling: decay of residue—from the top down. Thats how Na- ture did it—and the way we must do it." Depths at which sampl es were taken in the field Warsaws system of "conservation tillage," arrived at by trial and error over the last 25 years, is to chop 0-3" 3"-6" 6"-9" 12"-18" 18"-24 30"-36" the stalks and chisel to a depth of 15" in the fall. % org. mat. 6.6 5.4 5.5 4.1 3.6 2.7 "Then I go over it with a field cultivator in the spring. P2 Ib./A 264 166 114 44 60 14 "Shallowly," he adds. "You should try not to turn up Klb./A 914 470 346 366 400 392 cold soil." Now here are parallel resultsfrom a nearby Warsaw would be the first to warn that his system undisturbed fencerow. might not work on your soil—that everyone needs to % org. mat. 5.8 4.5 4.0 2.7 2.3 0.9 experiment, just as he has. But hes convinced that P2 Ib./A 50 26 12 14 20 10 farmers everywhere should till their fields less and do it K Ib./A 652 452 320 284 262 200 so they incorporate residue in only the top 4" of soil. "If you plow residue under, you lose organic matter—it burns up. Organic matter is important be- cause thats where your soil gets texture and water-holding capaci- ty," Warsaw insists. "If you mix it H e r m a n W a r s a w - into the top portion of the soil, the residue feeds the organisms and A p o s t l e o f C o n s e r v a t i o n creates organic matter." Warsaw probably has done more soil testing than any farmer • Like Ike Newberry (see above), "One spring, it was too wet to we know. One page of results he most farmers who have heard of Her- moldboard plow some of my bottom gave us showed readings from five man Warsaw probably think his pri- land. Wed been using a chisel on our different fields, each sampled at mary goal always has been to grow soybean ground, so I decided to chisel eight different levels of the soil 300-bu. corn. Not so. But let him tell that cornfield 4" deep in two direc- profile, and each sample analyzed it just the way he has told it to small tions. We followed the chisel with a for six different nutrients. farm audiences across the Midwest: disk-harrow and ended up with a per- Thats why youre not inclined "In the 1950s, after seven years on fect seedbed and a good stand. to argue when Warsaw says mat- the district conservation board, I be- "The next year, we split an 80-acre ter-of-factly: "We increased our gan to question the ways we were try- field into 10-acre strips, which we al- organic content from 3.3% in 1964 ing to control erosion. We were ternately plowed and chiseled. Thatll to 6.6% in 1978. In one test the spending a lot of money on terraces August we could see the differences University ran, a core sample from and other structures, yet we still had a right to the row. The moldboarded one of these fields absorbed 8" of lot of erosion. land was cracked, and the corn was water, whereas a sample from a "I tried no-till for a while, but too firing. The chiseled land had no moldboarded field would only take much of the water ran off under the cracks, and the corn was lush. in 4" of water." stalks. Besides, people believed that a "We harvested a couple of strips Our panel debated the best tools conservation program just couldnt separately and had the corn weighed build yields. in town; there was a 14-bu. differ- for incorporating residue, a debate 20 F R J U N L A C 18 A M O R A/ R H 93 M
  3. 3. Richard Uhrenholdt questioned whether residue de- leaves from drying out, and you get less stalk rot. serves that much credit: "You started with a very deep "The ears of FS854 are about an inch longer than topsoil. You told us winds had deposited several inches the average, and the kernels are very deep. Thats one of loess over already-rich prairie soil. reason why it tends to dry down so slowly. This hybrid "Yes," Herman nodded. "But this field had a defi- does its best when you crowd it." nite plowsole when I started chiseling. A plowshare We were back to the subject of water again. Almost smears the wet soil into a layer, right over last years in unison, the other three growers asked why FS854 layer, making it tough for the roots to penetrate. seemed so resistant to stalk rot. Warsaw said he sus- Chisel points shatter that layer." pected it was a result of the hybrids deep root system and his own deep soil. Photosynthesis continues be- For 300-bu. corn, Warsaw fertilizes with 250 lb. cause there are both water and nutrients to support it. ! of diammonium phosphate and 250 lb. of potash. "I think I have fewer problems with both insects "Some fertilizer moves down into the V-shaped and diseases than do most farmers," Warsaw added. grooves . . . you get more mixing than you think," he "I believe its the natural resistance of a healthy plant." says. "Also, the organic matter encourages earth- worms, and the water with nutrients runs right down At the end of our two-day gathering, we asked those holes. Then too, with yields like these, you get a our panelists what phase of corn production probably lot of decaying roots down there. held the most potential for their own future increases "But you have to have a hybrid that can take full in yield. Warsaw responded at once: "Other than resi- advantage of the water and nutrients," he added. His due management, its eliminating the disease factor. I top performer has been FS854—a full-season, 118-to- can push almost any hybrid to a plateau. Then disease 120-day corn. This is the one that made 338 bu. for moves in, stalks start going down, and yields tail off." Warsaw in 1975, 326 bu. in 1981 and 308 last year on Said Louis Shininger: "My biggest problem is that only 11" of moisture from planting to harvest. when I concentrate on one thing, I neglect something "Funny, but Growmarks FS Seed Division wants to else. Right now I need more soil and tissue testing." drop it," he says. "It has a much more extensive root "We all have different problems," said Uhrenholdt. system, but in compacted soil, stalk rot hits it hard. I "Leaching of herbicides and fertilizer are my biggest. guess thats why so many farmers dont like it." On dryland, we dont dare seed for more than 14,000 Warsaw has plenty of reason for liking it. When we plants; thats not enough to keep the weeds down." were there, in the middle of a wet summer, we saw Ike Newberry probably summed things up best when stalk rot and other diseases all around him. But the he said: "Most of us dont apply ourselves profession- stalks in his fields were still green and succulent. ally to the job the way Herman does. Of course, I had "FS854 has a tendency to photosynthesize about 15 heard of him before, but I just figured he had a plot of days longer in late summer than do most others," land that he poured the fertilizer on to get big yields. Warsaw explained. "And the last 15 days of photosyn- But what hes doing is more practical than anything thesis are more important than the first 15. Keep lower else Ive seen or heard about growing corn." < o Darrell Smith ence. Now its rare to get that much the amount—but gradually to keep increase, but it had rained at the right from creating problems. Today the time, and the chiseled ground held the University talks about these levels. moisture. So it isnt how much rain "In the spring we apply 28% nitro- you get but how much you keep. gen, or you can use anhydrous. Then "I could see that the residue had we cultivate with 7" sweeps—just done a much better job of holding the deep enough to reach the bottom of soil. I now believe that good residue the ridges. Many farmers would be management can give 100°/o control content with one pass, but I feel that of wind erosion, and Illinois spends leaves too many clods for soil to ac- $6/2 million a year to grade out our cept the herbicides. So we disk-har- roadside ditches. So really, I got into row, spraying herbicide [usually Las- yield contests because I felt they were so] behind the disk but in front of the the best way to promote conservation. harrow. Residue protects the soil and keeps it "Youll need to work out a pro- from both compacting and crusting. gram that fits your soil type. Whether Weve had few emergence problems. you use no-till, ridge tillage or some "Ive built up my fertility levels other type, the important thing is to slowly. When I first talked about 400 use residue to tie soil particles togeth- to 600 lb. of potash per acre, the Uni- er so they wont wash away. versity thought I was out of my mind. "Some farmers still feel that trying As yields increased, I kept increasing for highest yields somehow hurts the soil. I believe just the opposite. "The highest yields give you the FARMER/SCIENTIST. Though he has most residue, and high residue is cru- had little formal training in science, cial for making the highest yields. So Herman Warsaw uses every scientific the harder you push corn for yield, measure available to grow high yields. the better it is for the soil." <AM J U N L A C 1 8R O R A/ R H 9 3 M 21