Hannah Swartzentruber – Research Manager, CLC Ag & Energy Center-
One certainty in farming is the fact that each year is different. Last growing season at the Ag and Energy Center, we observed this as a storm flipped over irrigators in the Wadena County area.
This affected a couple of fields that we farm as well.
One field where this occurred was approximately 270 acres of field corn. While the irrigator on the North 135 acres was flipped, the irrigator on the South half of this field was not affected by the storm. Due to the high volume of irrigators that were flipped, the timing for fixing the issue was pushed back until the end of July. This led to some interesting observations at harvest that were collected due to irrigation not being available during the main part of the growing season.
Harvest season came and the combine, grain cart, and semi were rolled out. The portion of the field that was irrigated all season long averaged 180 bu/A. Our average yield of all irrigated acres (excluding damaged irrigator fields) was 178 bu/A. The average including fields with damaged irrigators ended up being 163 bu/A. When the combine yield maps were analyzed for the 135-acre field with the damaged irrigator, the average yield was 99 bu/A. This was a 45 percent yield reduction in comparison to the southern half that yielded 180 bu/A.
The northern portion of the field that had a yield of 99 bu/A also had an interesting variable in the field. There were 10 acres in this field planted at half the original population in 60-inch rows, reducing population from 34,000 to 17,000 plants/A. In between these corn rows, a cover crop was inter-seeded using a drill that was set up to plant in between the corn rows. The cover crop consisted of crimson clover and annual rye grass. When the ten acres of 60 inch corn was harvested, its yield was 96 bu/A. The 60 inch corn yield when compared to the 30 inch corn was three bushels less.
|Total Irrigated Average with flipped Irrigators||163 bu/A|
|Total Irrigated Average without flipped Irrigators||178 bu/A|
|Southern half Average (30″ rows)||180 bu/A|
|Northern half Average (30″ rows)||99 bu/A|
|Northern half Average (60″ rows)||96 bu/A|
The information that we learned from this project considering yield was intriguing to us, especially upon considering a cattle operation. If you have marginal ground or dryland fields and cows, this might be something to consider for your operation.
During this growing season with the challenges that we dealt with, the grain yield was consistent with the field corn scenario. A couple factors to consider include reduced population leading to reduced seed cost, and flex vs fixed ear varieties. The ears upon observation from the 30 inch corn versus the 60 inch corn were smaller and showed more stresses than the ears that were picked from the 60 inch corn.
Overall, this project needs to be repeated in successive years as the weather conditions and variables that affect the fields are not the same. We hope to repeat this project again in hopes to produce enough forage for cattle to come in and graze it. Stay tuned for more results from this project.