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Fields of study

FOR THE FIRST TIME IN THE 11-YEAR HISTORY of MFA’s Agronomy Training Camp, its annual field day was rained out—even in the middle of a drought.

At the time of the event in mid-August, roughly a quarter of Missouri was in a D2 to D4 drought as indicated by the National and Oceanic Atmospheric Administration. As usual, the Training Camp research site in Boonville, Mo., was ready for tours with signage and demonstrations to allow MFA employ­ees to experience the trials firsthand. A forecast of 100% rain necessitated a change in plans. Fortunately, thanks to the flexibility of all our speakers and a quick move to the Holiday Inn Executive Center in Columbia, the event was not a total wash.

In addition to the Boonville farm, MFA also conducted research and demonstration trials at a second site east of Columbia in 2022. At both locations, corn hybrids and soybean varieties were tested, including MFA’s own MorCorn and MorSoy seed along with partner brands DEKALB, Asgrow, Brevant and NK. Other trials focused on fungicide timing, seed treatments, nutrient use efficiency products, biologicals and corn silage yield.

In this article, we will focus on trials involving corn silage, biological prod­ucts and Xyway, an in-furrow fungicide.


The site of MFA’s Training Camp in Boonville encompasses 20 acres of corn-soybean rotation. This past year, corn was planted May 12 at a popula­tion of 32,500 seeds per acre. Except for the hybrid trials for grain and silage, all other trials were planted with MorCorn 4457. This has been our standard corn hybrid for trials the past three years, which allows for more effective comparisons because we don’t have to count for varietal difference in the results. The corn was fertilized with SuperU at planting with 300 pounds of actual nitrogen per acre. Since this is a testing site, we push nitro­gen fertilization in an attempt to eliminate the possibility of N being a limiting factor that affects yield.

The soybeans at Training Camp were planted June 13 at a population of 140,000 seeds per acre. MorSoy 3861 XF was the product used across all soybean trials, excluding variety trials.

The site east of Columbia is 35 acres of corn-soybean rotation. Here, the corn was plant­ed May 16 at a population of 32,500 seeds per acre. As with Boonville, all of the corn, except for hybrid trials, was MorCorn 4457 fertilized with SuperU at a rate of 180 pounds of actual N per acre. We had a few studies at both Boonville and Columbia involving nitrogen-based fertilizer, so those studies were not fertilized as the rest of the field but based on the trial treatments. The soybeans were planted June 16 at a population of 140,000 seeds per acre. The bulk of the soy­beans at this site were also planted with MorSoy 3861 XF.


While most would describe this year as hot and dry, weather records indicate otherwise. Yes, it was dry, as you can see in Figure 1A. Boonville started the growing season 2 inches behind normal rainfall, whereas the area east of Columbia was near normal to start. Both sites ended well below the average cumulative rainfall for May through October. Columbia ended up 6.5 inches behind, and Boonville ended up 12.2 inches behind. The lack of rainfall reduced disease pressure at our research locations. 

Now, look at the monthly average high temperatures in Figure 1B. On average, the temperature trended fairly normal this past growing season with the exception of excessive heat, greater than 5 degrees above normal, during the month of June in Boonville.

So, while precipitation was lower than normal at both sites, excessive heat was not a season-long factor. These weather conditions, along with timely rains in mid to late July, produced typical yields in both corn and soybeans.


When it comes to livestock, Missouri tends to be more of a cow-calf state, but some producers still operate dairies or feedlots that require higher-quality forage to produce milk or meat. In the past, MFA has relied mostly on research from outside sourc­es to give recommendations on corn silage hybrids, but our agronomists and livestock specialists identified a need to gather our own data.

In 2022, eight corn hybrids were selected from MFA’s seed portfolio to analyze both quality and yield, measured in tons per acre. From our MorCorn products, we chose MC4311, MC4457, MC4540 and MC4652. From DEKALB’s lineup, we planted DKC 65-95 and DKC 70-27, and from Brevant, B14U78 and B16T87. Each hybrid was planted at a population of 32,500 plants per acre. All of the silage plots were harvested on the same day when the milk line was half or greater and weighed for tonnage. 

A representative subsample of chopped silage was taken for each hybrid at each site and submit­ted for forage quality analysis by Dairyland Labs of Arcadia, Wis. Results are found in Figure 2A. Ter­minology of in this nutrient analysis is explained in Figure 2B.

The lab used NIRS (near-infrared spectroscopy) to generate the feed value of the silage. In a nutshell, NIRS recognizes individual nutrients in a feed based upon the amount of light absorbed at each near infrared wavelength. This technolo­gy allows for rapid and cost-effective assessment of many important nutrients in a sample for the same cost it would take to measure a single nutri­ent by wet chemistry.

Upon retrieving the nutrient analysis results, we found that all of the corn in our silage test had similar nutritive feed values with slight variation between each location and hybrid, which would not likely change the way they would be fed.

On the other hand, yield was comparatively different. At 27.2 tons per acre, B16T87 had greater yield than both MC4311, 19.7 tons per acre, and MC4457, 20.7 tons per acre. All other hybrids landed in the middle of the pack for yield, showing no statistical difference from B16T87, MC4311 or MC4457. 

This was MFA’s first silage trial, and there was a lot to take away from it. Overall, the purpose was to gain baseline knowledge of the flexibility of the MorCorn lineup, and we look forward to testing the same hybrids and some new selections to greater pinpoint products that will maximize yield and quality.


Biological products are catching attention among crop producers for many reasons. The idea of using a product that is comparable in price to fertilizer and could yield the same or more without apply­ing as much or any nitrogen is an attractive proposition. Additionally, reducing ni­trogen losses and moving to a greener footprint is also a trend across the industry.

While MFA continues to look at biological products to identify those that work and fit our customers’ production practices, there doesn’t seem to be a magic formula among current market offerings we’ve tested.

In MFA’s test plots, the biological products all contain bacteria but vary in application method, timing and formulation. Our benefit from these products is better use of nutrients and conver­sion of fertilizer to plant-available forms. While some of these have shown benefit to plants, the bacteria’s survival is the first priority. I mention this because microorganisms such as fungi, protozoa and even other bacteria are after the same resources and will feed on the biological product’s bacteria once applied.

For reference, there are roughly 10 billion bacteria in a gram of soil or the equivalent of the weight of a thumbtack. Above ground, there are about 64 million bacteria on a square inch of leaf surface. By comparison, in a single biological product ap­plication, only 4 or 5 billion bacteria are being applied per acre.

We must also consider that bacteria counts are higher for seed-applied inoculum to aid nodulation on legumes, such as soybeans, alfalfa and clover species. This well-known symbi­otic relationship further benefits bacterial survival and per­formance. In the case of biological products today, the same symbiotic relationship is not observed, which diminishes key plant-bacterial bonds at crucial times for bacteria survival. Part of the reason symbiosis is not observed is because the bacteria interact in close proximity to the plant surface and sometimes can be within plant tissues between cells. However, bacteria in new biologicals are not found in specialized cells that cater to the plant’s every need as a nodule does.

There is also concern about efficacy of any product containing a living organism. Reduced efficacy can be caused by mixing with other agricultural chemicals, water that is too acidic or too basic, water that is chlorinated, applying after the product’s expi­ration date, temperature of storage, and if the product has been previously opened. The clock starts ticking once the biological product has been mixed. In some cases, it must be applied with­in 24 to 48 hours of mixing. After storage, the bacteria not only need to be alive but also ready to take on existing microbiology. As mentioned earlier, once a biological product is applied, those bacteria are not just left alone. Predatory microorganisms are now able to feed on them and compete for resources.

Considering the complexity of these relationships, there is fur­ther work to find a true “silver bullet” among biological products. What we have seen so far would never make me second guess a strong plant nutrition program. Biological products are not going to solve your fertility issues. They are only going to improve farms when used in addition to sound agronomic practices.

That being said, MFA agronomists have observed some benefits with Corteva’s Utrisha N biostimulant in large-scale, on-farm testing. Trial locations were spread across central and northwest Missouri as well as in southeast Kansas. 

In a side-by-side comparison, soybeans gained an average of 4.5 extra bushels with Utrisha N applied at growth stages ranging from V4 to V8. Keep in mind, this is one year of data and more work is needed to understand what makes biological products consistently perform and establish their contribution to corn and soybean yield trends.


Xyway LFR is a systemic fungicide for in-furrow application on corn. The fungicide is a triazole, which means it belongs to the Group 3 mode of action. Diseases controlled include gray leaf spot (GLS), south­ern corn leaf blight (SCLB), northern corn leaf blight (NCLB), stalk rot and common rust. MFA has tested Xyway LFR from 2019 to 2022 at both Boonville and our site east of Columbia.

Across replicated trials containing Xyway LFR, we used a rate of 15.2 fluid ounces per acre compared against an untreated check. We found an increase of 5 to 6 bushels per acre when using Xyway LFR (Figure 4). However, there was no statistical difference between Xyway LFR treated and untreated plots.

We must keep in mind that weather and environmental condi­tions did not create disease pressure at our testing sites this past season. GLS, SCLB and NCLB are all diseases that overwinter in the previous crop residue. Our plots are convention­ally tilled, reducing the residue and culturally controlling these diseases. Common rust isn’t found at our locations as often as southern rust, which spreads more rapidly in hot, humid weather. Therefore, Xyway LFR isn’t the best fit for conditions at MFA’s research farms.

For many producers who no-till or have increased levels of crop residue, Xyway LFR is likely to be a better fit. Still, there are other fungal diseases that Xyway LFR does not control, such as southern rust. In these cases, do not forget to scout and make timely over-the-top applications of fungicides that will combat the diseases at hand.



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