• Agriculture Technology
  • Nov 13, 2018

Use Tech to Shrink the Corn Yield Gap

Green combine auger spout unloading corn into semi trailer
This past season, I worked with a number of farmers and their local trusted advisors using  predictive modeling. We wanted to determine optimal timing and rates for nutrient applications and enable a quick response to crop stresses to protect yield potential. Preliminary results indicate that the R7® Field Forecasting Tool did a good job predicting yield potential; in some fields we saw as little as a 5-bushel difference between what was predicted and what was actually achieved.
Minimizing the gap
It’s critical to take bushels out of the “maybe” column and get them into the bin. And even though it’s great to see that the predicted yield numbers from the Field Forecasting Tool were very close to what actually came out of the fields I observed, the yield gap number is what we want to focus on.
This is the difference between the maximum number of bushels a field has the potential to yield according to the model and the number of bushels the Field Forecasting Tool is predicting the farmer will see, given yield limitations. These limitations include weather factors like solar radiation, growing degree days and precipitation, with nutrient interactions from nitrogen, water and potassium.
For example, did your tissue samples over the course of the season indicate a nitrogen deficiency? If so, did you plant a hybrid with a high response to nitrogen that didn’t meet its potential because you didn’t apply an adequate amount?
The Field Forecasting Tool can indicate the potential of your field at the beginning of the season and reveal whether you lost bushels because you missed an opportunity to make a nutrient or water application. By asking and answering various “What if?” questions, you can start planning more purposefully for next year. It’s also a great time to look back at where these gaps were last season, and use that knowledge to inform your planning for 2019.
On-farm trial results
This season, I helped a farmer do an in-season nitrogen trial with the Field Forecasting Tool to better understand what the best rate and date to sidedress nitrogen was. We applied three different treatments: One was no extra nitrogen, one was the farmer’s planned rate of nitrogen and one was the amount the Field Forecasting Tool estimated we should apply to get the greatest ROI after we ran scenarios in the tool. The Field Forecasting Tool scenarios we ran also gave us an optimal application date to apply the trial treatments. 
Due to the ample amount of rain received in the Corn Belt in early summer, adding the nitrogen indicated by the Field Forecasting Tool paid off in positive ROI and at least 10 additional bushels per acre in high response-to-nitrogen (RTN) hybrids. Even hybrids with moderate RTN scores benefitted from additional nitrogen.
We found that this year the additional nitrogen we applied paid off on the farms I observed, but we know that not every year is the same. That’s why it’s helpful to have Answer Plot® data and predictive models like the Field Forecasting Tool when making in-season decisions. This allows you to adjust to those curveballs Mother Nature throws at us. We plan to continue to use Field Forecasting Tool with this farm in the future to try to make more profitable in-season nitrogen decisions. 
Talk with your local trusted advisor about how using the Field Forecasting Tool can help you plan your 2019 nutrient management so you can make the most of your seed and crop input investments. Don’t leave bushels untapped. Give them a chance with optimal in-season management.  
Any recommendation of WinField United is solely by way of recommendation and implementation of any WinField United recommendation is exclusively the customer’s decision. Because of factors outside of WinField United’s control, such as weather, product application, and any other factors, results to be obtained, including but not limited to yields, financial performance, or profits, cannot be predicted or guaranteed by WinField United.
© 2018 WinField United. R7® and WinField® are trademarks of WinField United.