Soaring input prices are nothing new for corn growers, but that doesn’t make them any easier to accept. And recently, nothing has soared more than the price of fertilizer.
The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) projects fertilizer to make up 46% of the total operating costs for growing corn in 2023. This is up from 37% for the 2021 crop and 35% for the 2020 crop. In fact, aside from 2008, the current fertilizer-to-operating-cost ratio is at its highest point since the 1970s.
On top of soaring prices, fertilizer is often a target in discussions related to water quality and corn sustainability. That’s why the National Corn Growers decided now is the right time to use one of its most popular programs, the 59th National Corn Yield Contest (NCYC), to offer a new challenge and a new opportunity for grower innovation and participation.
In 2023, corn growers will have the opportunity to enter the NCYC Nutrient Management Pilot. The premise is simple: growers will decide what nitrogen forms to use and when to apply, but total nitrogen applied must be 180 pounds or less. Participation will be limited to the first 100 growers located in Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Michigan, Missouri, Nebraska, Ohio, and Wisconsin.
According to a six-year Precision Conservation Management data study of farmers, nitrogen application rates greater than Maximum Return to Nitrogen (MRTN) are never more profitable for corn production on high soil productivity rating soils, even when higher nitrogen results in additional yield.
Farmer data from this USDA- and Illinois checkoff-funded report, “The Business Case for Conservation,” shows that corn grown on high soil productivity rating fields was most profitable when the total nitrogen application rate was in the MRTN range of 160 to 195 pounds.
Farmers are nothing if not innovative. Pushing the potential of hybrids has always and will continue to be a feature of NCYC. The pilot class offers a new twist on pushing this potential and a new latitude for learning, both from participating in the contest and by learning from others who compete. NCYC’s Nitrogen Management class is just another step in paving the way for competitive innovation in agriculture.
The contest’s competitive spirit is a tradition that dates back to 1965, but the National Corn Yield Contest isn’t satisfied with resting on its laurels. To be part of its history-making,