Secrecy is farming’s seductive mistress, but concealing production tips isn’t a formula for long-term success, according to some top-yielding producers. “In a heartbeat, farmers will help a neighbor who is dying,” says Randy Dowdy. “What if that same neighbor is on his financial deathbed and has too much pride to say anything? Does he literally have to be dying for us to help?” The five farmers featured below, who have consistently grown some of the strongest yields in the history of agriculture, share their best tips for a successful year.
For in-season soybean success, Randy Dowdy offers three general tips: Toss out university insect thresholds from the 1970s; pull tissue samples to ensure proper nutrient levels and focus on plant health; and spray fungicides as a disease preventative, not a cure. Dowdy, from Brooks County in south Georgia, fired the shot heard round the soybean world in 2016, a 171-bu.-per-acre record volley. He also tagged 521-bu.-per-acre corn in 2016, with a whole farm average of 369.84 bu. per acre.
As a highly respected producer in Gregory, Ark., and an apostle of intensive management, Perry Galloway says timeliness is hypercritical. A proactive, not reactive, management approach is also key, in tandem with quality seed treatments. Third, soil health (biologicals, fertility, pH) is vital for strong yields. Galloway is no stranger to consistent high yields, reaching 318 bu. per acre in the 2014 National Corn Growers Association contest and steadily averaging 80 bu. per acre across his soybeans.
David Hula’s top three bin-busting corn yield factors are based on a question of pounds: How can a grower increase weight? One, maintain nutritional balance with micronutrients between V3 and V5. Two, concentrate on disease management and intensively fertigate just prior to tasseling. Three, focus on test weight by ensuring plant health and fertilizer availability late in the growing season through aerial application. The Charles City, Va., farmer holds the standing world corn yield record at 532 bu. per acre.
Kevin Matthews parallels his top three in-season tips for corn and soybeans. First, producers must be a constant presence in the rows. Second, aggressive tissue sampling is a prerequisite. Third, the right soil moisture monitoring system and weather station is a priority. In 2016, Matthews registered a 320.20 bu. per acre corn yield in North Carolina’s Yadkin River Valley. Subsurface drip irrigation has allowed him to boost 150 bu. per acre dryland corn to between 290 bu. and 320 bu. and soybeans from 55 bu. per acre to 95 bu.
“It’s about a system and making the effort across every little thing at the right time,” says Matt Miles, Desha County, Ark., farmer. His top three soybean success factors center on fertility, drainage and variety selection. With an overall farm average approaching 90 bu. per acre, Miles can hardly keep track of the number of times he, his son, Layne, or wife, Sherrie Kay, have eclipsed 100 bu. per acre in the Arkansas Soybean Association’s Grow for the Green contest (five 100-plus bushel entries) from 2013 to 2016.