A Dumas soybean grower has become the first Arkansas farmer to break the 100-bushel per acre mark, and it all came down to a fraction of a bushel.
“It was really, really close,” Nelson Crow said Friday morning. Crow’s yield from his 5.433-acre block was certified Friday morning at 100.82 bushels per acre.
“I hadn’t planned to enter this year, but the way the year took off, and when I looked at the crop, it looked really, really good,” he said. “I knew we had a shot at it, but didn’t think we would ever do it.”
For comparison, the statewide average yield in 2012 was 43 bushels per acre, according to USDA figures. That average yield has steadily climbed since 2000, when the average yield for Arkansas was 25.5 bushels per acre.
For years, achieving 100 bushels per acre seemed about like landing on the moon. About five years ago, the Arkansas Soybean Association asked the Arkansas Soybean Promotion Board to fund an incentive program that has become the Race for 100, said Lanny Ashlock, a former extension soybean agronomist, who is now a project manager for the Arkansas Soybean Promotion Board. The producer that reaches 100 bushels per acre could win a $50,000 prize, but if there are multiple producers with 100-plus bushels, the amount would be divided among them.
Jeremy Ross, extension soybean agronomist for the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture, said he was surprised the magic yield number hadn’t been achieved before. “We’ve been close the last several years. We’ve had yields in the upper 80s and upper 90s. The potential was there and the stars lined up just right — the right environmental conditions, planted in the right field at the right time.”
Hitting the 100-bushel landmark was part of a larger trend in the past two decades that swept in many factors.
“Fifteen to 20 years ago, soybeans were kind of a stepchild,” Ross said. Since then, weaker cotton and rice prices, stronger bean prices and improved bean genetics encouraged growers to commit to more intensive management for soybeans and improved yields.
‘A perfect year’
“It’s been a perfect year for soybeans. I figured the 100-bushels would be broken this year. I didn’t know it would be me,” Crow said.
Crow said the variety he used, Pioneer 93Y92, had produced good yields in the 80-bushel-per- acre-range in the past, and thought it would be a best bet to hit 100.
He has high hopes for the rest of the 207-acre field from which the 100-bushel beans were cut. “We are going to finish the field today,” he said Friday. “I think the whole field is going to yield 85-87 bushels.”
Contest plots are verified by three people who must be extension agents and certified crop advisers. Crow’s fields were verified by Wes Kirkpatrick, Desha County extension staff chair for the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture; Gus Wilson, Chicot County extension staff chair, and Dwayne Beaty, territory manager for Pioneer.
Crow and his crop consultant walked the field until they found the area they thought could be a winner. The plot was measured and marked off with bicycle flags. The area immediately surrounding the field is trimmed so no other beans would sneak into the contest plot. The verification process also includes certifying that the combine, as well as the truck that would haul the beans to the scales for weighing, were empty, Kirkpatrick said.
It was a sign of the good harvest times when the first elevator they took the beans to on Thursday evening had too long a line to wait through, Kirkpatrick said. They wound up using the scale at Riceland’s Pendleton plant, where the most important document would emerge: the certified weight from the scale.
“I feel like there are more than just this one field that will get 100 bushels this year,” Kirkpatrick said. “There are some really good beans down here. We’ve had a cooler summer, and although it’s been dry, most of our ground is irrigated. We have some high-yield potential.”
‘Like a Quarter Horse taking off’
Beaty said “the thing that was the really important factor was that Nelson did this with a 3.9 maturity group. Almost all of the top end yields in Arkansas in the last few years have been 4s.”
Soybeans are categorized by the latitude for which they are adapted. In Arkansas and the mid-South, Groups 4, 5 and 6 are most common. The .9 indicates Crow’s variety is one of the later maturing in Group 3.
Ashlock said the Group 3s are very fast maturing. “They’re like a Quarter Horse taking off,” he said. “You have to be on top of your management game.
“If you’re a day late on irrigation, that’s going to significantly impact yields; same if you’re late on fungicide or insecticide,” Beaty said. Crow’s yield reflects “really good management on his part.”
Arkansas’ high summer nighttime temperatures have been the biggest obstacle to achieving triple-digit yields, and 2013’s cooler summer has helped, Wilson said. In addition, he said, “We’ve got good technology, better varieties and more tools.”
More big numbers expected
Wilson and Kirkpatrick will likely see more of these high yielding fields soon.
“Between us, I think we have 30-32 entries into the Race for 100 in our two counties,” Wilson said. “It takes half, to three-quarters of a day to verify these entries. Wes and I will be pretty busy in the next few weeks.”
“I would put our producers in southeast Arkansas against anybody in the United States,” Wilson said.
Shannon Davis, chairman of the Arkansas Soybean Promotion Board, called Crow’s achievement “something that not only the growers can be proud of, but also that the university’s research, funded by checkoff dollars, is paying off.”
Davis also said the board would ponder what the next yield goal might be.