November 19, 2015 | By: | Agronomy

Striving Toward 400 Bushel Corn

As our resident corn enthusiast, Mike Larson is continually implementing new projects around the farm. From experimenting with boosting yield potential to growing “Bison” corn (with green and gold kernels) to planting a small pumpkin patch among our Ole & Sven plots, Mike always has something up his sleeve.

Mike’s favorite experiment is his 400 Bushel Project, exploring the genetic potential of corn hybrids. This experiment, with a goal of attaining 400 bushel corn yields, began three years ago with John McGillicuddy’s help.

To achieve his goal of 400 bushel yields, Mike goes back to the basics. From equidistance plywood planters…

plywood planter


…to the irrigation fertilizer system (a pvc pipe and 30 gallon poly drum)…

400 bu irrigation system


…to the process of hand-harvesting…

400 Bushel harvest

…this project sticks to its low-tech roots. Despite the project’s low-tech nature, the results are significant, often highlighting the importance of precision planting technologies and the impact of planting high populations.

Here is the 400 Bushel Project’s growing season in review:

  • Mike planted five hybrids by hand at a population of 43,560 plants per acre on May 1. The field was fertilized for 150 bu/A.
  • He added 300 lbs. of 21-0-0-24, broadcast on June 1.
  • From July 1 to September 7, Mike and crew fed the plot weekly with 40 units of potash, 40 units of nitrogen, and a ½ inch of water per acre. Feeding added an additional:
    • 423 units of nitrogen
    • 360 units of potash
    • 72 units of sulfur
    • 4 ½ inches of water

This year, yields varied more than Mike expected:

  • 74K89 = 384.73 bu/A
  • 38L90 = 359.63 bu/A
  • 76S92 = 276.36 bu/A
  • 81W95 = 331.92 bu/A
  • 86S98 = 360.80 bu/A

Although we did not reach our goal of 400 bushels per acre, we were closer than ever before, adding 18 bushels to our previous high.

Special thanks to the Peterson intern team for their help with the 400 Bushel Project this year. Nick kept the plot weed-free, Danielle made sure the project was fed every week, Tucker hand-harvested it, and Harry shelled and recorded the weights, moisture, and test weight.

Mike plans to repeat the experiment next year. When asked if the goal is attainable, Mike says, “I’ll reach it, and then I’ll go to 500…just because!”


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