February 26, 2021

Debunking Myths: Riggert Brothers Fine-Tune Nitrogen Management

SciMax Solutions Specialist Eric Goodman (center) works with Mike and Brian Riggert of Whittemore.

SciMax Solutions Specialist Eric Goodman (center) works with Mike and Brian Riggert of Whittemore.

This is the final installment in our series featuring Mike and Brian Riggert of Whittemore. Throughout the 2013 growing season, the Riggerts worked closely with the SciMax Solutions team to provide a foundation for maximum yield potential. Take an inside look into the process as the Riggerts plan ahead for 2014.

How much nitrogen (N) does it take to maximize corn yields? It depends, but Mike and Brian Riggert are finding out what works on their farm.

“The scariest thing for many people is cutting back on N,” Mike said. “I understand the mindset, because it’s like saying you’re not going to plant any seed and still grow a crop.”

Mike and Brian are partnering with SciMax Solutions to analyze their nutrient removal rates so they fertilize exactly to their crops’ needs. In 2013, the Riggerts participated in SciMax Learning Blocks, which are like report cards to track what’s working. The Riggerts found that they could drop from 191 units of flat-rate N to 126 units.

The Riggerts have also used variable-rate N since they started working with the SciMax team, who take a scientific approach to N management to maintain or increase clients’ profit per acre. In 2013, the Riggerts worked with SciMax to study the effects of extra N.

“On top of the variable-rate, we applied 53 units of N on test strips,” said Eric Goodman, a SciMax Solutions specialist. “We found that it really didn’t gain the Riggerts anything, because we only saw a 0.3-bushel-per-acre yield increase.”

More isn’t always better. Six years of SciMax research and in-field studies have shown that N applications can often be reduced by 20 to 25 pounds while maintaining yields. “Once you see all this data, you can’t deny that it works,” Mike said. “SciMax has shown these results consistently across widely different conditions for a number of years.”

What’s ahead for 2014?

Even in a tough weather year like 2013, valuable data can be gleaned by participating in SciMax. N management is just the start for the Riggerts, who participated in a number of different trials with starter fertilizers, growth regulators, and more. “Now that corn is $4, we really want to maximize each acre,” Brian said.

The brothers worked with SciMax on a number of strip trials to test FORTIX™, a new fungicide that protects plants from yield-robbing disease all season long with a single early application. “When we checked their fields this summer, you could clearly see that the corn that had been sprayed with Fortix was definitely healthier,” Goodman said. “It also showed a 15-bushel yield bump at harvest.”

In January, the Riggerts spent the better part of a day in West Bend to meet with their SciMax Solutions specialists, analyze their 2013 data from each field, see how it fit with previous years’ data, and develop an action plan for 2014. Adding more tile and improving drainage on areas of their fields with Okoboji soils, for example, will change the management of these areas in the coming year.

The Riggerts applied some of their variable-rate anhydrous this fall, and they are continuing to work with SciMax to develop a nutrient application plan for 2014. They also plan to test whether smaller grid samples (1.6 acres versus 2.5 acres) provide more useful data.

The brothers have enjoyed visiting with other SciMax participants at meetings this winter. While each SciMax client’s data is confidential, aggregate information is shared to help everyone learn. “We like seeing what other growers are doing and what results they’re getting,” Brian said. “We want to do a better job, and SciMax is helping us find new solutions.”

Editor’s note: Mike and Brian Riggert farm north of Whittemore near the Lotts Creek area and have participated in SciMax Solutions for six years. They each farm more than 1,000 acres, for a total of nearly 2,400 acres of corn and soybeans. They utilize grid sampling, yield monitoring, and variable-rate technology for planting and fertilizer applications, including nitrogen.


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