Bruce Corn recognized as top corn grower in state
By WinField staff
For years farmers throughout the Pacific Northwest have considered corn merely a rotation crop, with the focus primarily on the tried-and-true cash crops in the region: onions, potatoes, sugar beets and dry beans. Farmers like Bruce Corn, however, have been investing more resources in corn as its profitability and popularity rises throughout the area.
Corn's investment has paid off – the National Corn Growers Association (NCGA) awarded him honors as the top Oregon corn grower for 2012, with yields averaging at 296 bushels per acre. Corn attributes his success to a number of factors, from hybrid selection to agronomic insight tools that have helped him get the most out of his fields.
Past winner, new variety
This recent NCGA victory isn't Corn's first. He won the contest in 1983 with 210 bushels, and after a break from the contest, he won again in 2009, this time with 291 bushels.
Corn's longtime agronomist, Bruce Hunter, Valley Agronomics, introduced him to a hybrid from CROPLAN® by WinField that was well-suited for his fields in the 2006 season. Soon afterward, Corn switched to the new seed, and he noticed a marked difference in his yield.
"Bruce was telling me about this new variety, and he said it was doing really well," Corn said. "I really didn't believe him until I tried it, and the increased production over the years has been unbelievable. When we switched to the 421 variety, we saw a dramatic increase."
But Hunter and Corn know the seed isn't going to do all the work on its own.
"We can have the best variety of seed in the world, but if we don't treat it right, it's not going to do anything," Hunter said.
"The new variety was certainly a turning point," Corn said. "Then you start building on that with these tweaks we're doing with precision planting and watching the fertility on a wider range."
Knowing that relying solely on the hybrid wouldn't result in strong yields year after year, Corn sought out more strategies with the help of Hunter and Rick Speicher, seed and agronomy advisor, WinField.
Finding answers in the field
According to Corn, Hunter and Speicher have been invaluable resources, crediting their availability and enthusiasm to help find solutions and new strategies he can apply to his field. One particular resource Corn finds useful for obtaining the agronomic information he needs for his operation is the WinField Answer Plot Program, which has a location in his area.
"We took Bruce [Corn] to an Answer Plot location close to him and were able to show him the hybrid's response to population and soil type," Speicher said. "Once he was able to see how connected everything was, we were able address some of the R7 placement strategies to help him unlock some more yield."
The R7 Placement Strategy helps precisely match crop inputs with field conditions. By tying together multiple components of crop management, the strategy helps farmers properly place products to maximize profitability. It encompasses everything from choosing the right genetics to match a field's soil type, to selecting the right population and cropping system, to feeding the right traits, and executing the right crop protection and plant nutrition practices to help each field reach its full potential.
Visiting a WinField Answer Plot location was an eye-opener that helped Corn see new possibilities for his own operation.
"The Answer Plot WinField has around here is first class," Corn said. "It's great because it's fairly close and has the same growing conditions we have, so we can apply some of the tools and strategies on our own farms."
Leading by example
Corn's willingness to try new strategies and technologies in his fields has turned into results, and those results have turned into learning opportunities for other farmers in the area.
"We've used Bruce [Corn] as an example to help other people manage plant populations, the kind of soil the seed is in and the fertilizer nutrients used," Hunter said.
Corn has come a long way from the 210 bushels he was yielding in 1983. Thirty years later, he is regularly pushing 300, and as yields have increased, so too has corn's popularity – something Corn expects will be a continuing trend.
"People have come to realize that corn has opportunities to contribute to the bottom line of the farm as much as some of our more high-value crops that have traditionally been grown in this area," Corn said. "There's still lots of potential."
To take advantage of the opportunities, Corn will continue to work with Hunter and Speicher on strategies to unlock potential in his fields that might just help him stay on top in Oregon.