How Dave Schwartz achieves the classic corn-grower's goal: Mature ears on green stalk

Healthy, 300-bu. plus corn on rolling hillsides with a corn suitability rating in the mid-50s? See the photos below taken at the Dave Schwartz farm a few miles west of Guthrie Center, Iowa.

October 13, 2018 — The photos below were shot Oct. 1 by crop consultant Bob Streit of Boone, Iowa. He and Dave Schwartz of Verdesian Life Sciences teamed up to build a no-till corn growing system which sequences several biological boosters and management practices to keep corn alive and filling to normal maturity.

That includes residue digestion microbials, cover crops, bioprotection against diseases and weather stress, all-season nutrient feeding (including stabilized nitrogen), and foliars applied for maximum absorption and translocation.

We'll intend to report the detailed programs, including costs and yields, after harvest. Meanwhile here's an update showing field conditions as of Oct. 1, 2018. Virtually all of the cornfields in central and southern Iowa were dead brown by then. Cornstalks on Dave's steep hillsides — "Billy Goat country — as this area is nicknamed — was mostly green, with heavy ears filled to the tips. 

In previous seasons, yield monitors occasionally topped 400 bu. on these hillsides. This season, estimates indicate yields in the 300s despite a July and early August drought, followed by a nearly nonstop deluge the next several weeks from late August into September and October. At the Aug. 20 field day at Dave's farm, nearly four inches of constant rain all day kept farmers from viewing fields in Dave's "back country." So a few farmers came back Oct. 1 for a later look; that's where these photos came from. As you'll see, the rains were persisting.

The nearby photo of husked ears is typical of corn on higher elevations of Dave's land. Deep kernels on green stalks, with mature ears wrapped in white husks. That signals healthy corn that's still capable of bulking up kernels with more depth and density, which add test weight and yield. Bob Streit and Dave Schwartz have seen that keeping corn alive, versus suffering widespread die-down which appears to advance a few days each year, adds final 50 bu. or more onto yields.

 

A wider view of an entire field shows the rolling landscape, and a cornfield that's mostly green as of Oct. 1. This field probably won't turn brown until frost kills it. There's another benefit of keeping stalks healthy this way: They stave off stalk rot. Stand up well in fall winds. Remain full of sugary sap after combining, when Dave shreds them and applies a stalk-digesting spray of microbial organisms and nutrients. Last year, he saw that shredded, digested stalks were so black and crumbly by February that, had it been spring, "I could have planted no-till with a regular planter, not even a no-till planter."

 

Here's Dave Schwartz in the rows of another field, giving you an idea of how most of the green leaves have persisted while corn has black-layered. His total applied nitrogen, metered through the season, is about 200 units. Biological release provides the rest. He applies an in-furrow biological mix which includes bacteria with nitrogen-fixing capabilities.

Bob Streit's partner, Marv Mortensen, cruises the endrows of a field closer to the creek bottom. Even though a lot of disease spores blew in on late-August storms, these fields are holding up well.

The following photos are other views of corn on the higher ground. All of the "back country" fields received most of the nutrients and biologicals in the Schwartz/Streit arsenal including nitrogen stabilized with Verdesian's Nutrisphere.N which anchors nitrogen without killing off nitrifying organisms in the soil.

Update Oct. 17:  Bob Streit reported that some of the corn has been harvested: "On the steep slope area yields on the monitor were in the 270 to 290 range."

For a more comprehensive list of products used in these trials, visit our reports on the Aug. 20 field day at Dave's place:

This summary discusses the possibilities of silicon.

This report on the Aug. 20 field day covers Bio-Empruv, a proprietary biological which strengthens plant immunity to disease invasion.

 

The bottom photo below is a sharp contrast. It is a neighboring field which was NOT on Dave's biological program. It's typical of Oct. 1 cornfield conditions in central Iowa.

 

 

Commentary October 15: Dave Schwartz called enroute home from a Verdesian meeting in western Nebraska, noting that his harvest of plots is just starting. A hard freeze over the weekend shut down all green fields, but he said that's okay, "It's time." 

Later, Dave will have yields and expense data on his plots, and on the higher-elevation fields which get the entire arsenal of yield-boosting treatments.

Here's an observation on the Schwartz corn projects, e-mailed last night from an Eastern Corn Belt grower:

"Amazing to see green corn.  I am curious to know how many trips over the field are required to do that.  

"It will be interesting to see how the moisture content of The Dave Schwartz grain compares to "normal" farmers.  I still remember harvesting green corn with white shucks and the moisture content was 16%.

"I believe the seed companies are partly to blame [for typical early die-down] as they are of the mindset that "corn has to die of something before the grain can dry."  

"I have personally heard that from a seed company owner.  And that company uses brine to kill the majority of their seed fields. There are many acres of seed fields in this county. My observation may shock you: The company that doesn't kill their seed fields in this county is Monsanto. It would be quite interesting to find out if the seed that was used on the Dave Schwartz goat hills came from parent stock that had been killed by brine pre-harvest or not.  I can tell you that our best corn this year is from seed fields NOT killed with brine.

"We did our test plot this week and the company rep noted we had by far the highest test weight of any corn he had done. Maybe our system of growing corn helped in that aspect. Planting date was an issue here this year.  The later planted corn is the best.  Between two large fields using the same variety divided only by a very narrow road, there was a 40-bu. difference in favor of the field planted four days later. Some things we just can't control."

About 30 years ago when AgriEnergy Resources founder Dave Larson was on the seminar circuit, he often pointed out that one of his corn-growing goals was full-to-the-tip ears in white shucks, hanging down from still-green stalks and leaves. He'd add that a live plant enables moisture to migrate out of mature black-layered kernels, back into the stalk via its living vascular system. But a dead stalk doesn't do that, so moisture in kernels has to evaporate slowly.