As I was talking to a vendor last week, they pointed out to me that we never spend any time in this forum discussing the results of last year’s trials. We talked at length about them in the summer and what the expected conclusions were. We certainly reference them, but never have we come right out and discussed them. So today we are going to do that. We have put together a great little book on some of the results that we saw last fall. You should be able to pick it up at your local location, or it is available here: HERE. Inside you will find sections about Nitrogen Stabilizers, Starter Additives, Fungicide treatments, Foliar Applications, and Multi-Hybrid Planting. They all have useful information that accompanies them as well. Not just the results of the trial, but why we did what we did, and a deeper conclusion about the results. I encourage everybody to spend a bit of time some snowy afternoon reading through the Innovation Series review. But today, I want to focus on the results of the Downforce trials.
For several years now, we have been touting the ROI of Hydraulic Downforce Systems. We know that they lead to better yields because of the improvements that we see with seeding depth, which leads to consistency of emergence. And we know that it can help eliminate sidewall compaction that leads to poor root structure. We have seen these results replicated throughout the Eastern Corn Belt over the last 4-5 years, and in our own plots for the past couple. But, we wanted to take the evaluation a step further. We know that it is variation in the earlier mentioned things that leads to yield loss, but what does that look like in an ear by ear example in the field.
So not only did we plant replications of our trial that we took to yield, we also began the measurement process in the field the first day that a plant came up. We documented the number of days that each plant was delayed when it came to emergence, and then measured the ears pre-harvest for a plant by plant, ear by ear measurement. From that extra step, we got 2 data sets instead of 1. We got the yield results by downforce setting that you see in the book, but we also got a second dataset too complex to publish. Let’s start with the plot results.
When we compared ears at harvest, there was little doubt that in most plots that we saw much greater consistency in ear length and girt with the automatic setting. That was to be expected, but when we got to the yield results, we didn’t have 100% wins. At our Randolph plot, we saw 125lbs beat automatic downforce by about four bushels. That wasn’t a surprise since our Automatic setting on that plot averaged approximately 130lbs, they were really close in results. The one that was a bit surprising was our Norway, Kansas plot where the automatic setting lost by ten bushels. Here, we attribute the loss to user error. Automatic Downforce systems have a user input to choose the range that we want to operate in, basically from light to heavy. We left our system on Medium for all of our trials. At the Norway plot, we planted into No-Till Wheat stubble where the average downforce applied needed to be around 250lbs. So even with DeltaForce, the guy in the seat needed to adjust based on ground contact on the 20/20.
So the results told us what we kind of already knew. As a rule, 125lbs is a great starting point. But the difference between Auto and 125lbs on all plots was eight bu/A. But you can also see that 40% of the time 125lbs was the worst performer. When we accompany that data with our plant by plant data, it is easy to see why there is a benefit to downforce. The consistency of emergence in the first 48 hours on our plots this year was about 12-15% better with downforce vs. airbags. What I mean is that with Downforce, we consistently saw 97% or better emergence in 48 hours compared with 85-88% with airbags.
The take-home for today is this. The reason that we see that 8-10 bushel improvement with downforce can be consistently tied to emergence consistency. But hydraulic downforce control systems like DeltaForce still take a brain behind the steering wheel to make them perform at their best. Downforce may not win every plot, but the consistency that provides will win in the long run. It is a significant investment, but we feel confident that the 8 bushel per acre number is bankable year in and year out. If you utilize financing options, it can pay for itself times over in the next three years. Talk to your local ACS equipment tech or FSA to learn more about the research, and how to put a downforce system to work on your farm yet this year.