Trial by flood

Flooding in many parts of our trade territory not only affected producers in 2019 but also MFA’s research testing site known as Training Camp. For the past eight years, we have conducted agronomic trials in Boonville, Mo., in the river bottoms just north of the Missouri River. Last spring, we were able to get everything planted before the levee broke just south of the field and flooded the entire bottoms in early June.

Since our Boonville farm was flooded, we weren’t able to hold our an­nual MFA Training Camp field day that usually includes more than 400 MFA employees and ag industry personnel. However, we were able to obtain another research site east of Columbia and provide two field days for growers to tour our test plots.

MFA’s training sites provide hands-on participation in our testing and product evaluation process. Last year’s research included variety trials for MorCorn, MorSoy, DeKalb, Asgrow, Mycogen and NK as well as corn and soybean seed treatments, foliar nutritionals, fungicides, fertilizer studies, understanding dicamba volatility, starter fertilizer and soybean popula­tion.

Beyond the educational opportunities these field days provided for participants, multiple replicated testing sites across MFA’s trade territory delivered data vital for product improvement and evaluation. We con­ducted 30 large-scale, side-by-side trials evaluating fertility, fungicides, seed treatments, plant growth regulators and other biologicals. On the following pages you will find summaries of these trials and results of the research conducted at the test plot site in Columbia in 2019.

MORCORN VARIETY TRIALS

MorCorn variety trials were planted on June 2 with a total of 36 hybrids tested ranging from 104-day comparative relative maturity (CRM) to 117 CRM. We tested 10 MorCorn commercial checks against 24 experimen­tal hybrids and two competitor hybrids.

The field was fertilized with 180 pounds of actual N in the form of SuperU. When we were finally able to get this site planted, there was an expected chance of six inches of rain the next week, so we delayed nitrogen applications until we could ensure that we had a viable stand to complete our trials. By the time we were able to get nitrogen on the test site, the corn was at the V5 growth stage. As you will see, we were still able to produce a good corn crop even with late application of nitrogen. Corn doesn’t use most of its nitrogen until the V6 growth stage, which is why we talk about the importance of getting your nitrogen on the field at the right rate and time but also ensuring that it is protected by nitrogen stabilizers to reduce loss before the plant is ready to utilize it.

The planting population was 32,500 plants per acre. Despite the late planting, yields were impressive for this site. The top end hit 226 bushels per acre with an experimental hybrid. On the bottom were a couple of experimental hybrids at 182 bushels per acre. Results from this year’s MorCorn training site trials can be seen in Fig. 1A and 1B. In addition to our training sites, these hybrids were tested across multiple environments and geographies in 12 other locations within MFA’s trade terri­tory. In Fig. 1C, you can see a yield comparison for the varieties that have been tested multiple times from 2017-2019 at our replicated sites.

MORSOY VARIETY TRIALS

In terms of soybeans, the diversity of MFA’s trade territory is reflected in the MorSoy lineup. MorSoy varieties range from 3.3 to a 5.0 in maturity and include conventional products as well as Roundup Ready 2 Yield Technology, Roundup Ready Xtend, LibertyLink and Enlist E3. The MorSoy variety trials were plant­ed on June 2 with a total of 55 varieties. We tested 26 MorSoy commercial checks against 27 experimental varieties and two competitor varieties. The planting population was 140,000 plants per acre.

The trials were grouped by relative maturity ranges into four categories with all of the herbicide technology traits combined. Therefore, weed control was maintained with a sound agro­nomic conventional herbicide program. Results from this year’s MorSoy training site trials can be seen in Fig. 2A, 2B, 2C and 2D. In addition to our training sites, these varieties were tested across multiple environments and geographies in 12 other locations within MFA’s trade territory. In Fig. 2E, you can see a yield comparison for the varieties that have been tested multiple times from 2016-2019 at our replicated sites.

FUNGICIDE TRIALS

Over the years, benefits from foliar fungicides have been well documented in both disease control and plant development. This past year, we doubled our variety trials for both corn and soybeans so we could look at the impact of fungicide by variety. Fig. 3A and 3B show overall results for the early and late-season corn varieties, with combined yield for the untreated block and the block treated with Trivapro. As you can see, there was an increase of 20 to 25 bushels in the plots that were treated with fungicide over those untreated in a year with limited disease pressure. We conducted soybean trials the same way and treat­ed the plants with Quadris Top. We saw a 3-bushel to 6-bushel increase on the soybean plots treated with fungicide.

SLOW-RELEASE NITROGEN AND FUNGICIDE TRIALS

While benefits of fungicide on our crops are proven, there is a way we can boost the fungicide to provide an even better return. Slow-release nitrogen (SRN) gives us that opportunity by working synergistically with fungicides, most importantly those with strobilurins. SRNs provide an efficient method of delivering low-use rates of nitrogen to the plant when it is being stressed. This allows fungicides to reduce stress and promote plant growth, resulting in more gains and higher N efficiency.

MFA’s own Gold Advantage Trend-B is a slow-release nitrogen with boron added. Boron is an essential nutrient needed during a crop’s reproductive stages for grain development. However, boron is not very mobile within the plant. When taken up early, boron most likely won’t move enough within the plant to the areas that need it most. By applying Trend-B, we are not only providing nitrogen to help the fungicide promote more efficient plant performance, but also helping deliver optimal boron nutrition for final grain development. Proper timing is crucial to get the most out of these applications for both SRNs and fungicides.

We have done many studies with Gold Advantage Trend-B as well as Gold Advantage Corn and Soybean products with fungi­cide in trials. The tables above summarize the results from 2019 with these products. In Fig. 5A, you can see the results from our SRN trial for corn. While the results are not statistically significant, you can see that there is a trend of increased yields by applying fungicide with Trend-B and Gold Advantage Corn at the proper timing of VT-R1. In Fig. 5B, you can see similar yield benefits in soybeans by providing fungicide and SRNs at the proper timing.

FUNGICIDE TIMING

If there was a theme to our trial work last year, it would be fungicides. In particular, we wanted to look at the best timing for fungicide application. Is it worth it to be early and make applications when we can, or should we wait just a little longer until the soybeans have reached full flower? Or can we delay applications until we near the end? In 2019 trials, we applied fungicide on soybeans at seven different timings, two at early vegetation stages and five during each of the early reproductive stages. As you can see in Fig. 6A, in a year where limited disease pressure was present, the vegetation application timings were similar to the untreated check. We also didn’t see an impact from the fungicide in the later stages of soybean reproduction. Where fungicides made the most impact were in the early re­productive stages when the soybeans are setting pods. That was shown to be the most optimal timing for fungicide application with an increase of 4 to 5 bushels.

SOYBEAN POPULATION TRIAL

We often get questions about soybean population and what is considered a viable stand to determine replants. We conducted a planting population trial to determine the impact of plant population on overall yield. While the results were not statisti­cally significant, in Fig. 7A you can see that an increase in pop­ulation correlated to yield increase until a certain point. This is expected for lower populations because soybeans are well adapted to “make up” for lost stand. They will branch and fill the voids to the best of their ability, but lower populations allow for less canopy closure and more competition from weeds. On the top end, eventually the soybeans will compete with them­selves, which means higher yields cannot be achieved by simply having more plants.

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