March 1, 2021

On the Road to 300-Bushel Corn: Dr. Fred Below Shares “7 Wonders” with SciMax

SciMax Dr. Fred BelowWhat will it take to accelerate from 250-bushel corn production to the elusive 300-bushel mark? Serious management.

“It’s not the one thing you do for high yield; it’s what you don’t do that kills yield potential,” said Dr. Fred Below, a University of Illinois professor of plant physiology who detailed his “7 Wonders of High-Yield Corn Production” to SciMax Solutions participants at a recent meeting in Algona. “The ‘7 Wonders’ are like members of a basketball team. The benefit of each wonder is magnified by the other wonders.”

The 7 Wonders for 300-bushel corn, which build on the prerequisites of drainage, weed control, proper soil pH, and adequate phosphorus and potassium levels, include:
1. Weather. Uncontrollable, unpredictable, unmanageable— weather is the number-one factor affecting crop yield. On its own, weather contributes 70 bushels or more per acre.

2. Nitrogen (N). Used correctly, nitrogen accounts for almost the same value as weather. Combined with weather, N accounts for more than half the crop yield. Weather dictates when N can be applied, its availability, and its usability by the crop. “You can’t have weather-induced N loss and grow high-yield corn,” said Below, who recommends “weatherproofing” your N with a nitrogen stabilizer.

3. Hybrid. Choosing the right hybrid is one of the most important decisions you make each year. Not all hybrids are created equal, Below stressed. “I’ve seen a 50-bushel yield swing between the best and the worst hybrids. The gap is even more dramatic when you have a tough weather year.” Pay attention to “workhorse” hybrids, which are tolerant of low N conditions but not high plant populations, and “racehorse” hybrids, which show a large yield response to N and are tolerant of high plant populations, Below said.

4. Previous crop. Continuous cropping of corn costs yield. “Will this yield penalty go away if you just give it time? Not from what I’ve seen,” said Below, who cited an average yield penalty of 25 bushels per acre with corn-on-corn. “In fact, the continuous corn yield penalty gets worse over time.” In fields where corn has been rotated with soybeans, corn has better vigor and produces higher yields. “If your previous crop was soybeans, you get a yield bonus of 25 bushels,” he added.

MaxYield Dr. Fred Below5. Plant population. Higher yields come from higher plant populations. “Most of you are giving up 20 bushels of yield because you’re not planting enough plants,” Below said. “This is a factor that must go up to meet the world’s growing demand for grain.” Row spacing is one way to increase plant population, said Below, who thinks the future of high-yield corn lies in 20-inch rows. “At nearly every site where I’ve seen 20-inch rows compared to 30-inch rows, the 20-inch rows increased yield.”

6. Tillage. Reduced tillage plays an important role in saving soil and retaining valuable water and nutrients. Smart tillage practices can add an extra 15 bushels per acre in the quest for 300-bushel corn, Below said.

7. Growth regulators. Growth regulators include those compounds that can have a positive impact on plant growth, like fungicides, and protect against foliar disease, contribute to greener leaves, healthier plants, and improved yield performance. “The leaves are the business end of the plant, and you need to keep them healthy,” said Below, who noted that growth regulators can contribute an extra 10 bushels per acre towards 300-bushel corn.

Learn more with SciMax
High-yield corn production requires a proven system approach like SciMax Solutions, Below said. “I’m trying to show you what’s possible. Reaching 300-bushel corn and making a profit requires intelligent intensification, and that’s what SciMax does.”

For more information about SciMax Solutions, log onto Contact your nearest MaxYield Cooperative location to start working with a SciMax Solutions specialist to find the right options for your acres.

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