Atrio of Arkansas soybean producers -- first ever in the state to harvest 100-bushel-per-acre crops -- took center-stage at the recent Tri-State Soybean Forum.
“Nelson Crow was the first to ease over the 100-bushel barrier and, man, did the excitement start,” said Lanny Ashlock, who moderated the Jan. 3 panel discussion in Dumas, Ark. “The best we’d done before was just over 94 bushels -- we were still five or six bushels away. So, this was a big jump and Nelson made it.”
Several weeks later and just a few miles south of Crow’s field, Matt and Sherri Kay Miles, harvested right at 108 bushels.
Later in the year, on September 27, Eddie Tackett harvested a field in the Arkansas River Valley that almost reached 105 bushels.
So what did these producers do to get over the hump?
Crow has been in a corn/soybean rotation for the last three years. His Winchester field that broke the record used to be in cotton.
“Those of us working (towards 100 bushels) have been putting out fertilizers, lots of chicken litter,” said Ashlock. Southwest Missouri yield king “Kip Cullers puts out eight tons (of litter). But Nelson decided not to put any (pre-plant fertilizer) out.”
Later in the year, at R-2, Crow did side-dress 100 pounds of urea per acre. He hit the field with some foliar feed a bit later with two pounds of sugar.
Why did Crow forgo the pre-plant fertilizer?
University recommendations “told me not to,” said Crow.
The fact that Crow broke 100 bushels with a 3.9 (Pioneer 93Y92) “shocked me,” said Ashlock. “I know a 3.9 can do well. We’ve done a lot of research over the years. But I didn’t know it could do that well.”
The variety was planted on 30-inch bedded rows at a seeding rate of 145,000. Why plant a late 3.9 on April 24?
“Most everything I plant is a late 3 and planted earlier,” said Crow. “Generally, they’re planted on non-irrigated ground. On irrigated ground, though, they wanted me to plant it later to get the plant height. Plant it in April and you’ll still harvest in August, still be able to get the August delivery dates.
“There’s about a three or four week window to plant this bean. In this area, you’ll still be cutting around August 15.
“Fifty-seven days after you plant this bean you need to be watering. Don’t wait on rains. You’ve got to be running. It doesn’t back, it’s a racehorse. If you miss something it’ll show up in the end.”
Missing an irrigation event is, “a stumble that the crop won’t recover from. If you miss it, you’ve messed up.”
Matt Miles’s 107.634-bushel field – located outside McGehee -- was planted April 24 and harvested September 13. His record yield came from Asgrow 4632 seed planted at a seeding rate of 170,000.
The field did have chicken litter applied. “We take grid samples in the fall and variable potash as needed. Litter is a bit weaker in potash than phosphate. We get more than enough phosphate with the litter.”
The Miles operation is extremely concerned with resistant weeds. “We act like we have a huge pigweed problem simply to be proactive instead of waiting for them to arrive. We’ve gotten them anyway. We began three or four years ago – basically tolerating zero pigweeds.” Even so, “now, we have them” despite starting the practice “when we believed we had none.”
For a pre-emerge herbicide, said Miles, “we ran Verdict, a new product from BASF. It did an excellent job. We usually come back 10 to 12 days later with an application of Prefix to overlay the residuals and get more control on the pigweeds. When you do that, it pretty much eliminates any other weed.”
What about insecticides? “We did run one application of acephate for stinkbug. But it was a pretty light year other than that.”
The Miles field was irrigated nine times.
Of the three 100-bushel busters, Miles was the only one to use a harvest aid. Was it just to knock leaves off the plant?
“Mainly so,” said Miles. The variety stayed rather green and “we got to the point where we needed to cut it to get finished. We went with 1.5 ounces of Sharpen.”
Eddie Tackett, who farms near Atkins, Ark., has been in a corn/bean rotation for a decade. On September 27, he harvested a Pioneer 94Y70 104.832-bushel field that had been planted on 30-inch beds on May 13.
The seeding rate was 150,000. The stand count was 140,000.
“We have everything from sugar sand to gumbo clay,” said Tackett.
One difference in the winning field between 2012 (when Tackett harvested nearly 90-bushel soybeans) and 2013 was the application of two tons of chicken litter. “That’s above and beyond what the university asks for fertility. We give some of the credit to the litter – 90 bushels versus 104 – and a lot of credit to the cool weather.”
Tackett uses polypipe and irrigates every other middle. “This particular ground wicks 60 inches across. I don’t think I’m losing anything on yield, but possibly could be…
“To get the higher yields, you’ve got to have internal drainage and can’t waterlog the roots for long, cut the oxygen off.
“It takes about two inches of water per irrigation. That means we use 14 inches. We had really good subsoil moisture to start with -- totally different than 2012 when it quit raining in March in the Arkansas River Valley.”
What about weed control?
“We used a pint of Dual pre-plant. We also had a gromoxone-type burndown.” About 15 days after planting, Tackett applied, “a quart of Flexstar and a quart of Roundup.”
The field received deep tillage. “That particular ground doesn’t have much of a hard-pan. But to get to 104 bushels, I don’t think you can have many things go wrong. Some of the things we can pre-fix, like compaction, we try and take care. We don’t do it on every piece of ground we have but we’ll do deep tillage there.”
Many things must go right to grow such high yielding soybeans. “This is my recipe: good seed, good soil, good fungicides, good insecticides, good weed control, good irrigation and good weather.”
The importance of weather can’t be overstated, said Tackett. 2013 weather allowed producers “to cut better beans than in 2012. It just wasn’t as hot. In 2011, on August 6, it was 117 degrees in the River Valley.”
Asked about production costs, the trio agreed the figure was between $300 and $350 per acre.