Crop physiologist Larry Purcell’s research at the University of Arkansas focuses mostly on soybeans. Lately that means studying “how we can utilize the resources of light, water and nutrients more efficiently through crop management and genetic differences among lines.”

Toward that goal, Purcell and collaborators are working several projects. One concerns maximum yield of soybeans.

“We have on-farm research at Kip Cullers’ operation” in southwest Missouri, he says. Cullers consistently produces huge, award-winning yields.

“We’re measuring crop growth responses under his field conditions, and the response of the crop in terms of seed-growth characteristics and nutrient levels in the plant throughout the season.”

For photos, see here.

Other maximum yield, small plot research is ongoing at the University of Arkansas’ main station in Fayetteville.

“We’re trying to duplicate some of the different treatments Mr. Cullers is using on his farm to see if they pan out for us,” Purcell says. “We’re about 90 miles away from him, so the climate is similar. It’ll be interesting to see if we come up similar responses.

“Along the same lines, we have strip trials on farms at England in central Arkansas and another just south of Helena in extreme eastern Arkansas. We’re trying to implement some of the same maximum yield production practices on large scale fields.”

Just as 2011 was difficult for many producers, it also hasn’t been kind to many researchers’ projects. “This past year was extremely rough,” says Purcell. “I think everyone recognizes that.

“We didn’t get the yield responses at either England or Helena that we had hoped for. However, the yields we got were good. At England, we worked a variety test and the best variety yielded 74 bushels; at Helena, the best yield was 83 bushels per acre.”

While those don’t approach the superb yields Cullers has been producing, “they were still good. We weren’t able to get into the field when we’d have liked; planting was delayed because of the weather.

“Once planted, we had trouble keeping plants out of the water — like everywhere else, we faced a lot of rain. We had a rough time just getting the plants established.”

Regardless, says Purcell, “We’ll be doing the research for at least two more years. A graduate student is working on it. Pioneer is sponsoring the on-farm strip trials at England and Helena, and the Arkansas Soybean Promotion Board is sponsoring the research on Mr. Cullers’ farm and our small plot research efforts.

“I hope, in two years, we’ll speak again and I’ll have a great story to tell.”