Missouri farmer Kip Cullers reveals 15 keys to growing high-yielding beans.
When fellow farmers ask Kip Cullers how he set the world record for soybean yield at 160.6 bu./acre, he tells them it was simple: You just need to remove stress.
It can’t be that simple, though, or the typical yield for a soybean harvest, about 40 bu./acre, wouldn’t be at one quarter of Cullers’ mark. The key, Cullers told a Soybean College audience in Coldwater, Mich., is to focus on what you can control.
"You can control nutrients, insects, and disease," he says. "And you can have some control over water, and sunlight and CO2 through plant density."
During his presentations, Cullers, who farms 13,000 acres in southwest Missouri, continually reminds farmers that what works for him may not work in northern Michigan. Everyone, he says, needs to understand their growing conditions and farm accordingly.
Cullers revealed the following secrets to successful farming:
Don’t fear failure. Instead, remain flexible and respond to current conditions. You can’t afford to farm the same way for 10 years and expect to get the same results each year. You need to experiment even if it doesn’t work. "Everything I’ve learned, I’ve learned from my failures, not my successes."
Remove stress from the plant’s environment. That means spraying insecticide more often than not. "I wouldn’t want 200 aphids sucking on me. I imagine plants don’t either."
Stick to fundamentals. "There are some things we always do, because they make good sense. We always have a good treatment program. We use an insecticide. We don’t let weeds get out of control. And we apply a fungicide."
Use fungicides. Cullers sprays his soybean plans with fungicide twice, because he’s growing them in the Southern region of the country. In Northern regions, you may only need to apply them once. "If you put fungicides out there, nine out of 10 times it increases your yield."
Grow very dark-green plants. Photosynthesis is one of those things you can control, through the addition of iron and magnesium. The darker the plant, the more seeds it’s likely to grow.
Vary your routine. You can’t plant the same variety year after year and get the same results. You need to change the seeds you plant every 2 or 3 years.