A move to strip-tilled, twin-row corn and experimentation with a plant growth regulator helped Ohio’s Larry Krystowski push corn populations and increase yields.

For nearly 40 years, Larry Krystowski has successfully no-tilled soybeans, wheat and corn in northern Ohio near the shores of Lake Erie. But no-tilled corn always proved to be a challenge, primarily because of wet, heavy clay soils and residue buildup that prevented the ground from drying out in the spring.

“Some years, we’d struggle to get to 100 bushels per acre with our no-tilled corn,” Krystowski says. “We’d have to wait to plant corn until the ground dried out, and sometimes that wouldn’t be until mid-May when we were planting soybeans.”

So 12 years ago, Krystowski began strip-tilling corn in spring to accelerate the drying out of the soil and clear residue ahead of planting. The early returns were significant in being able to build a better seedbed and plant earlier, which translated to a 25% boost in yields over no-till.

“I basically went from not making any money in corn to turning a profit,” Krystowski says. “I immediately saw yields improve to a 130- to 140-bushel-per-acre average, which was a substantial increase over no-till.”

Those yields have continued to increase with a move to twin-row, strip-tilled corn in 2011 and, more recently, with in-crop application of a plant-growth regulator.

Small But Successful

Krystowski and his siblings sold the family’s farm several years ago and today, he farms about 300 acres of rented land in Avon , Ohio.

He runs a six-row Yetter strip-till rig with Yetter Maverick row units. The units feature row cleaners in front to stop any trash hairpinning by the large coulter immediately behind them. Next is an anhydrous shank followed by two scalloped covering discs. The discs are set to build a shallow 12-inch-wide mound.

PROFITABLE COMPARISON. Looking to revive his stressed corn crop in 2013, Avon, Ohio, strip-tiller Larry Krystowski applied the plant growth regulator RyzUp, which improved stalk thickness, height and root mass (plant shown at left) compared to untreated corn plants.

“I am using an anhydrous shank because it’s the smallest shank. I don’t want to make a huge rut and I only want to go about 5 or  6 inches deep,” Krystowski says. “I don’t want an 8-inch-deep furrow to plant in because I don’t want to bring up our subsoil, which is very shallow.”

Ideally, Krystkowski prefers to build strips in late March or early April, when there is still a little frost. That helps the topsoil break up as it dries out. With an average field size of 10 acres — most of which are square with a 0% to 2% slope — he doesn’t use GPS.

Krystowski also doesn’t apply fertilizer with his strip-till rig because there is a risk of burning the seed if he sways from the row with the planter. But he may begin to apply a small amount of 28% nitrogen in the future with the fertilizer coulters  on the planter.

“I don’t want to get a little off the row and have that seed go right on top of where I apply the 28%,” he says. “But eventually, I would like to apply that 28% the same time I build strips to be more efficient, and may start out with about 10 gallons per acre.”

Twin-Row Triumph

Since moving to strip-till, Krystowski typically is able to plant earlier, often the third or fourth week of April. For years, he used a six-row Allis-Chalmers planter on 30-inch spacings.

Avon, Ohio strip-tiller Larry Krystowski shares his approach to successfully strip-tilling corn in twin rows and how it's allowed him to push corn planting populations to 45,000 seeds per acre, while maintaining yields near 200 bushels per acre.

But with an abundance of moisture in his fields, Krystowski wanted to push seed populations and purchased a Great Plains six-row, twin-row planter 3 years ago. The row units feature unit-mounted coulters and row cleaners, Keeton seed farmers, spider closing wheels for fighting compaction and drag chains.

For the twin-row setup, he plants on 30-inch centers with 22 inches between the 8-inch wide twin rows.

“I was planting 28,000 seeds per acre in 30-inch rows and I wanted to get at least another 10,000 seeds in the ground because I’ve got the moisture for it,” he says. “That’s a big plus for this ground. My goal is to eventually increase populations to 45,000 seeds per acre.”

Planting 38,000 seeds per acre in twin rows, Krystowski is seeing corn yields near 190 bushels per acre. This past year, he had one field reach 196 bushels per acre — his highest corn yield ever.

One minor change he made while moving to twin-row strip-tilling is setting the covering discs on the strip-till rig to 12 inches apart to accommodate the 8-inch-wide rows.

After strip-tilling and a week ahead of planting, Krystowski applies 3 gallons per acre of nitrogen with Agrotain nitrogen urease inhibitor, glyphosate and residual herbicides with his Hardi sprayer as a spring burndown.“We’re also going to add rolling baskets to the strip-till rig next year. When we planted the single row right down the middle, I didn’t have to worry about clumps,” Krystowski says. “Right now, the covering discs are pulling some dirt into the middle and I’m trying to plant in those clumps. The rolling baskets should smooth out those clumps.”

TWIN-ROW TECHNIQUE. Using a six-row Great Plains twin-row planter, Larry Krystowski pushed corn populations to 38,000 seeds per acre, planting on 30-inch centers with 22 inches between the 8-inch-wide twin rows. This past year, he had one field yield 196 bushels per acre, his highest corn yield ever.

With the planter, he applies in furrow 6 gallons per acre of Growers Mineral Solutions (GMS), a noncorrosive liquid nutritional product. That gives him an economical starter fertilizer package with potassium, phosphorus, zinc, sulfur and micronutrients applied through the seed firmers.

“Because we use twin rows, I have my frame-mounted fertilizer coulter in the very front centered on the 30-inch row. Each row unit has one left or right row cleaner,” Krystowski says. “With only 8 inches width, there is not room for two.” 

These row cleaners work well pushing any trash away from the seed zone, he says, and the no-till coulter follows just ahead of the seed discs.

The planter carries two 150-gallon tanks for the pop-up starter fertilizer. Krystowski applies a pop-up fertilizer right on the seed.

“In the future, I want to mount tanks on my tractor,” he says “Then we can put a little 28% in exactly the 30-inch row, keeping in mind when I put it there that it’s applied 4 inches from the seed, so it will be perfect.”

When corn is about 2 feet high, Krystowski comes back with the sprayer and dribbles on about 60 gallons per acre of 28% nitrogen. The sprayer, which has a 60-foot boom and 750-gallon capacity, can cover 125 acres in a day traveling about 6 mph through the field.

Stimulating Experiment

While he generally welcomes the moisture that Mother Nature provides, Krystowski endured an excessively wet 2013 that took an early toll on corn plants. His area recorded 5.5 inches of rain in April and May and another 13.5 inches of rain in June and early July.

“The emergence was stressed, as well as our early growth,” he says. “Our corn looked absolutely terrible.”

DOUBLING UP. The combination of strip-tilling for twin-row corn and application of a plant growth regulator led to more corn plants with double ears for Larry Krystowski, who farms in a typically wet region of northern Ohio.

Looking for a way to revive his crop, Krystowski took the advice of a friend and did an in-crop application of RyzUp SmartGrass Plant Growth Regulator from Valent. Although primarily a product applied to forage and silage crops in the past, it now it has a label for field corn. 

With his sprayer, he applied 0.5 ounce of RyzUp per acre with a nonionic surfactant at 1.75 pints per 100 gallons of water on June 4 and June 5, right at the third to fifth collar stage. The cost of the application was about $13 per acre.

“Timing was very important because that’s when ear formation and development is established, including the number of kernels per row, length of the ear, depth of the kernels and the number of rows per ear,” Krystowski says. “It’s a very powerful stimulant, so we only applied based on the label. Our sprayer pressure was set at 70 PSI and it was critical that we applied it correctly.”

Within a week, Krystowski noticed improvement in the health of the plants he sprayed and in early July, he pulled several corn plants to compare root mass, stalk width and leaf size with plants that had not been sprayed.

The plants with RyzUp were taller, with heavier root balls and fatter stalks.

“Later in the season, we also noticed lots of double ears, with two real ears on each plant,” Krystowski says.

At harvest, he did three yield comparisons of fields and the areas with RyzUp all produced higher totals. One stressed field showed a comparison of 167 bushels per acre vs. 119. Another less-stressed field revealed 196 bushels per acre vs. 179, and the third check of a severely stressed field showed 183 bushels per acre vs. 118 bushels.

“Looking at the plants in the field, I never would have expected that much of a difference in yield,” Krystowski says. “Keep in m

ind that I paid about $13 per acre, so that’s pretty inexpensive for that yield bump.

“In the future, I’m hoping there is a way to concentrate the application on the plants to make for a more economical application.”