Progressive Farmer December 2015 : Page-21

THE ANSWER IS . Cerny RETURNS OR ELSE . has learned his soybean yields correlate most strongly with soil type, soil water-holding capacity (from soil organic matter and strip-till or no-till) and drainage. This year is the first time he will walk away from cash rent ground that is too pricey for today’s economics. Being just plain curious has also made him money over the years. Cerny’s on-farm research and involvement in research organization boards help distinguish between yield-building practices and profit-building ones. As an officer of the farmer-led North Central Soybean Research Program (www. soybeanresearchinfo.com) and the Wisconsin Soybean Marketing Board, he’s exposed to “the best minds in the business” combating soybean problems, he says. He admits, “It’s hard to change my ways,” based on research. When he began no-till trials in 1985, he “honestly didn’t want them to work,” he says. “But, based on my own trial results, I became 100% no-till by 1993.” COMBO TILLAGE . Then, eight years ago, Cerny began strip-tilling the ground he planned to plant to corn the following year. Three years ago, he devised a novel combination of a no-till/strip-till system for bean ground and tested it in replicated tillage plots. He strip-tills on 30-inch centers, planting in 15-inch centers—the equivalent of 12 strip-tilled rows (8-inch strip) and 11 no-till rows between the strips. “I don’t even like tilling just the 8 inches of the 30 inches I’m planting, but the yield boost is way too good to ignore,” Cerny says. This year, he harvested each row individually to identify the yield difference (still unknown at press time). This modified no-till/strip-till system embodies the best agronomics from each system, which he operates for $14.83 per acre (that includes equipment, fuel, and repairs for his Case IH Steiger 400 tractor and Krause Gladiator strip-till equipment). “I don’t scrimp on inputs that proved themselves in the past,” Cerny says. For example, he also continues to use a combination seed treatment/ micronutrient ($4.50 per acre cost) at planting, because it’s been effective on his farm. Using the same logic, he abandoned another seed treatment because it failed to prove itself in two years of side-by-side trials on his farm. He also uses independent research to help shape decisions. Weekly scouting can save him $40-plus per acre on fungicide use by weighing what’s unfolding in his fields (and those he custom-farms) to target sprays only when disease exists, at the most opportune time for treatment. Sometimes you have to outsmart disease, too. Research by University of Wisconsin pathologist Damon Smith indicates risk for white mold can be sidestepped if the fungus is controlled when soybeans blossom. Spraying right when the fungus begins to germinate can help with pathogen control, Smith says. The goal is to spray when both white mold spores and bean flowers are present. The lack of either means no need to spray, saving thousands of dollars, Cerny says. “On the other hand, if both are present and you don’t spray, it can cost you thousands in lost yield.” As a seed-bean grower, Cerny accesses the latest genetics a year earlier than most. That’s especially valuable in combating his biggest challenges: White mold, aphids and soybean cyst nematode (SCN). Growing seed beans has also separated fact from fiction regarding the common belief that extra-large bean seeds build yield. Above a certain size, he says large beans are harder to plant. ▶ ▶ YOUR FARM T H E P R O G R E S S I V E FA R M E R / D EC E M B E R 2 015 21

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