On a mid-August afternoon, Lanny Ashlock drove north from Lake Village, Ark., into the heart of Arkansas’ Delta country. After following the ribbon of tarmac through miles and miles of superb cropland, it dawned on the state’s veteran soybean researcher/agronomist: 2013 is the year someone will finally break 100 bushels per acre.

In the weeks since, Ashlock has repeatedly been proven correct. In mid-September, three southeast Arkansas farmers have harvested confirmed 100-bushel-plus soybeans. And there is plenty of time for more to add their names to the list.

Ashlock, now with Arkansas Soybean Promotion Board (ASPB) outreach, couldn’t be happier. “We’ve been waiting and working towards someone breaking that 100-bushel barrier for seven years, now.

“The board of directors of the Arkansas Soybean Association had a yield contest committee. They submitted a proposal to the ASPB in 2007 and the board then backed the $50,000 award to the first individual, or individuals, that could certify yields of 100 bushels, or better.”

In years past, producers have hit right at 95 bushels. “But this year, things looked really good in many parts of southeast Arkansas almost from the get-go. We’ve always been hopeful that someone would do it. But this year has looked very promising with around 60 entrants into the contest. The first entrant, Nelson Crow, that harvested actually did it.”

More on Crow’s winning field here.

More on the soybean yield contests here.

Many of the area producers knew they had outstanding crops. In July, when the plants began setting pods in earnest, Ashlock took a call from a farmer who said, “I just hope we can finish these out without any trouble. These look so good after that cool July.”

The incredible yield bumps have not come in a vacuum. While Ashlock is quick to heap praise on producers for their hard work, he’s equally complimentary of the university research being done with check-off funds.

“A few years back, the ASPB, with check-off dollars, really began to look at increasing yields at the research level, and then they involved the research stations. This is a big effort – from research work at stations and farmers’ field, to yield contests, to education.”

At the Pine Tree Station -- just west of Colt, Ark., where the interviews for this story took place – director Shawn Clark, “has plots where he’s trying to build yields. When I was (University of Arkansas soybean specialist), I used to work with him at Cotton Branch, at the Rohwer Station and over at Newport Station,” says Ashlock.

The stations all have different soils and conditions. That allows growers in the areas around the stations to see “what can be done in the region. It’s more than winning a contest; it’s trying to maximize profits and yields.”

Ashlock also nods toward southwest Missouri yield-master Kip Cullers as having “woken us all up to the possibilities with yields and that we can all do better. And we’ve been trying ever since.”