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Big corn yield with little help

Lewiston, Minn., area farmer harvests 314-bushel corn on 7 inches of rain.

Kevin Schulz

February 2, 2024

3 Min Read
A cornfield ready for harvest
DRY BUT BOUNTIFUL: David Heublein captured this photo Oct. 12 as he started harvesting his field that would record a yield of 314 bushels an acre despite only receiving 7 inches of rain during the growing season. David Heublein

David Heublein’s 2023 corn crop benefited from the value of good seed genetics, crop management and a little help from above.

Heublein and his wife, Jennifer, operate Heublein Family Farms near Lewiston in Winona County, Minn., which, like most farmers in the state, endured a drought last year.

Despite receiving only about 7 inches of rain during the growing season, Heublein harvested 314-bushel-per-acre corn on his 10-acre plot for the 2023 National Corn Growers Association yield contest.

“Just guessing, I think we were about one-third of normal rainfall,” he says. Rainfall was 1.1 inches in May, 1.5 in June, 3.9 in July and 0.5 inch in August.

“What helped us at home is we have Port Byron silt loam and Mount Carroll silt loam, and they’re a heavy black soil type, along with minimum rain to give surprising yields,” he says.

As Heublein checked the crop throughout the growing season, he could tell yields would be OK considering the lack of rainfall — but he still didn’t believe the combine yield monitor, even though it was calibrated multiple times due to second-guessing the reading.

From the NCGA contest 10-acre plot, growers harvest 1.25 acres. Using a six-row header, Heublein picked six rows and skipped 18 rows, repeating that pattern until he had the 1.25 acres harvested. That grain was taken to a local co-op where the yield was validated.

Dipal Chaudhari, Dekalb Asgrow Brand Lead, and corn grower David Heublein

In addition to the soil types being favorable to conserving the moisture that did fall, Heublein credits planting May 1 in “perfect soil conditions,” with a planter that maintains 100 pounds of down pressure, clean sweeps and residue management. He also has been grid soil sampling for about 20 years and applies fertilizer and lime on the grid.

Aside from bumping the plant population from 36,500 seeds per acre on the rest of his corn ground to 38,500 on the contest plot, all other practices were the same across his acres. “We’ve only got a few acres, so we try to get maximum yield on all of them,” he says.

Heublein gives credit where credit is due, maintaining his loyalty over the years to Dekalb seed. The 2023 record-setter is DKC59-82RIB.

Also giving credit where it’s due, Heublein says, “We were truly blessed to have a bountiful year and thank the good Lord for providing us with just enough rain to give us corn yield here at home.”

2023 yields: Good, bad and ugly

Not all of the Heublein corn yielded 314 bushels. “In 2023, we did have some real challenges in Minnesota. We operate three farms, one of those north of Fremont, and we had less than 5 inches of rain on that one. And our yield was hurt badly,” he says. “The other farm is near Wilson, and we had high wind and golf-ball-sized hail July 14, resulting in a much lower yield as well. It’s almost the tale of three farms here. Three different yields, three different challenges.”

Heublein has participated in the NCGA contest since 1991, and he has seen a steady increase in his yields over the years. “That first year we got 209.27 bushels an acre, and last year we got 314.95,” he says. “That’s a 33% increase.”

Looking ahead to the upcoming growing season, Heublein plans on using rootworm technology to help his corn crop. He will also keep his eyes on the sky, looking for rainclouds to replenish the soil moisture. Rain or no rain, he will continue the practices that got his corn to 314 bushels per acre.

“Not one of these things will get you 314-bushel corn by itself, but all of these practices working together will get you to that level,” he says.

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About the Author(s)

Kevin Schulz

Editor, The Farmer

Kevin Schulz joined The Farmer as editor in January of 2023, after spending two years as senior staff writer for Dakota Farmer and Nebraska Farmer magazines. Prior to joining these two magazines, he spent six years in a similar capacity with National Hog Farmer. Prior to joining National Hog Farmer, Schulz spent a long career as the editor of The Land magazine, an agricultural-rural life publication based in Mankato, Minn.

During his tenure at The Land, the publication grew from covering 55 Minnesota counties to encompassing the entire state, as well as 30 counties in northern Iowa. Covering all facets of Minnesota and Iowa agriculture, Schulz was able to stay close to his roots as a southern Minnesota farm boy raised on a corn, soybean and hog finishing farm.

One particular area where he stayed close to his roots is working with the FFA organization.

Covering the FFA programs stayed near and dear to his heart, and he has been recognized for such coverage over the years. He has received the Minnesota FFA Communicator of the Year award, was honored with the Minnesota Honorary FFA Degree in 2014 and inducted into the Minnesota FFA Hall of Fame in 2018.

Schulz attended South Dakota State University, majoring in agricultural journalism. He was also a member of Alpha Gamma Rho fraternity and now belongs to its alumni organization.

His family continues to live on a southern Minnesota farm near where he grew up. He and his wife, Carol, have raised two daughters: Kristi, a 2014 University of Minnesota graduate who is married to Eric Van Otterloo and teaches at Mankato (Minn.) East High School, and Haley, a 2018 graduate of University of Wisconsin-River Falls. She is married to John Peake and teaches in Hayward, Wis. 

When not covering the agriculture industry on behalf of The Farmer's readers, Schulz enjoys spending time traveling with family, making it a quest to reach all 50 states — 47 so far — and three countries. He also enjoys reading, music, photography, playing basketball, and enjoying nature and campfires with friends and family.

[email protected]

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