Randy Dowdy of Valdosta, Georgia, and Dowdy Farms produced two yields in excess of 500 bushels per acre in the 2016 National Corn Yield Contest. It is the first time a grower and his operation have produced multiple yields of 500 bushels or more in the 52-year-old contest.
In the no-till, strip-till irrigated category, Dowdy produced a 521.3968 bushel-per-acre (bpa) yield. Dowdy Farms swept the irrigated category with these entries: Kevin Dowdy, Valdosta, Georgia (501.0196 bpa); Michelle Dowdy, Valdosta, Georgia (465.0332 bpa); Loren Seabolt, Valdosta, Georgia (463.1138 bpa). All of Dowdy’s winning entries were grown with AgriGold hybrids.
Earlier this year, Dowdy also produced a certified 171.8 bpa soybean yield, the highest soybean yield on record.
The National Corn Yield Contest also established a new record with 5 national entries surpassing the 400 bpa mark. The contest, with nearly 8,000 entries this year, is conducted by the National Corn Growers Association (NCGA). The 18 winners in six production categories of this year’s contest had verified yields averaging more than 375 bpa, compared to the projected national average of 175.3 bpa in 2016.
“The contest provides farmers more than just an opportunity for friendly competition; it generates data that impacts future production practices across the industry,” Brent Hostetler, chair of NCGA’s Stewardship Action Team, said in an NCGA press release. “The techniques first developed by contest winners grow into far-reaching advances, helping farmers across the country excel in a variety of situations.”
Dowdy’s 2016 top entry is the highest ever produced on his farm, although he has produced 500 bpa before. From his 2014 crop, he put a 503.7190 bushel-per-acre entry into the contest. It was the biggest that year, and at the time, it was the highest yield ever recorded.
A year later, David Hula, Charles City, Virginia, harvested a 532.0271 bpa entry in the National Corn Yield Contest. That remains the highest corn yield recorded in the NCGA national contest.
Hula placed second in the no-till, strip-till category with a yield of 485.0320 bushels per acre this year with a DuPont-Pioneer hybrid.
Dowdy says he owes his success to being a student of the corn crop.
“The best thing I can see in my corn field is my shadow,” he told DTN/The Progressive Farmer. “It means I’m out there observing what the plants tell me they need. If you’re in the field with your eyes open, you can find all of those minimums. You’ve just got to look and care about doing what you can to relieve plant stress.”
The “minimums” Dowdy refers to is Liebig’s Law of the Minimum. The Law of the Minimum states that crop growth is controlled not by the total amount of nutrients available, but by the scarcest nutrient available to the plant. In his take on the Law of the Minimum, Dowdy also considers plant population, skips and doubles, compaction, weed control, insect damage, plant disease, too much or too little water, poor drainage, planting errors and harvest-time losses.
Dowdy is also an advocate of leaf tissue testing. He begins tissue testing at 350 growing degree units (GDU) — when the young corn plant begins to draw nutrients through its root system — and continues through the R4 and R5 plant development stages. R4, the dough stage, begins 24 to 28 days after silking. Dowdy said his goal is to maintain sufficient nutrient levels in the corn depending on the time of season, the maturity level of the corn and for the production level he expects.
“Tissue samples are a source of data we can make decisions from,” he said. “The tests will help answer the question about the benefit of the nutrients being added, or are we moving the needle?”
Here are the results for the highest yields in the 2016 National Corn Yield Contest, sponsored by the National Corn Growers Association. AA Corn Yield Contest states include Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Minnesota, Missouri, Ohio and Wisconsin. The numbers in parenthesis indicates yield in bushels per acre.
Heath Cutrell, Chesapeake, Virginia (347.2323)
Drew Haines, Middletown, Maryland (324.9316)
John Gause, Scranton, South Carolina (318.6724)
Kevin Kalb, Dubois, Indiana (339.0287)
Patrick Hammes, Batavia, Iowa (320.2897)
John Ruff, Monona, Iowa (313.2838)
A No-Till/Strip-Till Non-Irrigated
Dan Gause, Scranton, South Carolina (346.0533)
Daniel Gause, Scranton, South Carolina (345.2789)
William Thomas, Cades, South Carolina (336.5413)
AA No-Till/Strip-Till Non-Irrigated
Tim, Dan & Joe Durick, Council Bluffs, Iowa (333.5025)
Robert Jensen, Neola, Iowa (332.7353)
Luke Mezera, Bagley, Wisconsin (312.1836)
Randy Dowdy, Valdosta, Georgia (521.3968)
David Hula, Charles City, Virginia (485.0320)
Kristen Corpus, Hermiston, Oregon (339.6230)
Kevin Dowdy, Valdosta, Georgia (501.0196)\
Michelle Dowdy, Valdosta, Georgia (465.0332)
Loren Seabolt, Valdosta Georgia (463.1138)