Crops, Youth

Innovative Youth Corn Challenge Banquet

Today’s agricultural world faces several challenges, one of them being the decline of our most valuable resource, the future workforce. Rural communities, including agricultural producers, can benefit from expanding youth into leadership opportunities, therefore mentoring youth leaders.   With this in mind, the Innovative Youth Corn Challenge was born which involves 4-H or FFA members, challenging them to produce the most economical, highest yielding corn. The team with the highest percent yield increase over their local county average is eligible for cash awards to further their 4-H or FFA plant science or leadership based programs. Both irrigated and dryland fields are eligible and will be scored accordingly. In addition awards are given to the team who has completed excellent production and economic records and an innovation award.

The Innovative Corn Challenge is designed to encourage youth to pursue an agricultural career and return to rural Nebraska. This program is implemented through UNL Extension with financial assistance from the Nebraska Corn Board. Extension faculty, agriculture education instructors and crop consultants may serve as harvest supervisors and assist with data collection.

 In 2012, the pilot year, ten teams signed up with six completing the project proposal and five completing the program.  Each team received $50 for their efforts and a copy of the Hybrid Maize CD, which is a computer program that simulates the growth of a corn crop under non-limiting or water-limited (rainfed or irrigated) conditions based on daily weather data.

The participants and their sponsors are listed below:


Super Strong H’s from Osceola consisted of Rob Buhl and Bennett Nelson with Tim Pallas as their supervisor. This team focused on planting populations in dryland conditions with populations at 26K and 30K. Yields of 49.05 bushels/acre with 30K and 52.65 bushels with the 26K respectively. This team did well on explaining the importance of increased yield to feed our growing population and also explained the important role of drought tolerant hybrid technology.

Humphrey FFA members, Spencer Beller and Lynn Slama tested strip till with a starter and nitrogen in the furrow vs. a perplant application of starter and nitrogen 15” from the row. They exceled with crop scouting records and their rainfall report. Their challenge plot yield was 217.5 bushels. Their project sponsor was Robyn Graham, FFA Advisor.

The Wranglers 4-H Club from Platte County tested the use of a foliar fungicide to early-stage corn (V5) to help corn reach its yield potential by protecting the corn plant from early-season diseases. Their challenge plot using Headline was 250 bushels and without was 254.8 bushels. Detailed crop scouting reports were completed with production information and a very complete budget. Their sponsor was Alex Labenz.

Austin Tatro and Trevor Birky, members of the Strang 4-Bar-H club in Fillmore County tested planting populations. On irrigated

ground they tested 34K and 30K per acre compared to a check plot of 32K seeds per acre. Their economic analysis was complete and showed the difference in costs between treatments. Planting population at 30K yielded 223 bushels, while 34K yielded 216 bushels and their check was 226 bushels/acre. Project sponsor was Brandy VanDeWalle.

The Pioneers 4-H Club from Madison County consisted of Kaylyn Kucera, Sidney Kucera, and Andy Zessin. They tested a higher population (30 vs. 38K), increased nitrogen rate (200 vs. 250# N) and a biological growth enhancer. Their challenge plot yielded 249.1 bushels while their check yielded 237.5 bushels. In addition to great production records, they documented visual differences in their report. Regan Kucera was their sponsor.


The data completion award was awarded to the team who demonstrated excellent record-keeping. The 2012 Data completion award went to the Strang 4-Bar-H club from Fillmore County with Austin Tatro and Trevor Birky. They received $200 for their efforts.

The Innovation Award was given to the team with the most innovative challenge plot and thorough explanation why it was innovative. This team also received $200 and went to the Super Strong H’s 4-H Club of Polk County with Rob Buhl and Bennett Nelson.

The teams with the highest percent yield increase over their local county average were the winners of the 1st, 2nd and 3rd place awards. The winning teams also completed their harvest report form and were presented to:

1st Place Corn Challenge Team receiving $1,000 was the Wrangler’s 4-H Club from Platte County with Elizabeth Blaser & Reid Fullner.
2nd Place Corn Challenge and receiving $500 was the Pioneers 4-H Club of Madison County with Sidney Kucera, Kaylyn Kucera, and Andy Zessin3rd Place Corn Challenge with $250 was Humphrey FFA with Spencer Beller & Lynn Slama

Project coordinators were Brandy VanDeWalle and Aaron Nygren, UNL Extension Educators. The 2nd Annual Innovative Youth Corn Challenge is planned for 2013 with the addition of another award. The limited resources award will be given to the team that achieved the highest yield per inch of water. Entry forms to participate in this program  are due March 1st. For more information, contact Brandy VanDeWalle at or (402)759-3712.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s