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Targeted fertilizer applications and a nutrition plan result in a NCGA winning corn yield.

Mindy Ward, Editor, Missouri Ruralist

April 4, 2023

3 Min Read
Jeff and Kati Wescott, 2022 National Corn Growers Association Yield Contest winners for Missouri
WINNING DUO: Kati and Jeff Westcott attended the 2023 Commodity Classic in Florida to receive their award for the highest corn yield in Missouri at 322.5 bushels per acre. The couple say precision crop management practices and good weather helped with a successful 2022 corn crop in their area. Mindy Ward

Jeff Westcott, like many farmers across the country, faces a comparable situation — the lack of available, reasonably priced land does not allow expansion. So, the Missouri farmer changed his mindset and crop management practices to get the most out of every acre he owns.

“I’d rather concentrate on being a better farmer instead of a bigger farmer,” Westcott says. Part of that resolve is maximizing corn yields. This year, he is one step closer to that goal.

The Chula, Mo., farmer reached 322.5 bushels per acre, earning the top spot for Missouri in the 2022 National Corn Growers Association Yield Contest with Dekalb DKC66-18RIB. Westcott was one of the nation’s leading corn yield producers in the conventional nonirrigated class.

“I gave the crop everything I thought it needed,” he says, “but Mother Nature and the Lord did the most.”

Westcott managed his corn crop for high yields from preplant to harvest.

Early conversations over hybrids

“We talked pushing that population back and making sure we have enough plants out there to really be able to push yield,” says Tierann Dennis, a Dekalb seed dealer based in Laredo, Mo.

Dekalb DKC66-18RIB is a 116-day relative maturity, and one that allowed Westcott to increase planting populations to 36,000 seeds per acre.

Dennis says this hybrid offers farmers some disease shield properties making it a healthy plant. “It also has other parentage of high-yield, racehorse kind of hybrids,” she notes. “When you put those two things together with a really great growing season, it really pushed yields.”

Westcott planted this winning hybrid in a bottom ground 90-acre field comprised of mostly gumbo and silty loam soils during the first week in May 2022. “We were very blessed in this area with the weather,” he explains. “We got rain every time we needed it, and we didn’t get too much.”

Lay of the land

Westcott, who farms with his wife, Kati, acquired this parcel of land about four years ago and did not know its fertility levels. So, he decided to grid sample.

He divides fields into 2½-acre sections. “I think the key to higher yields is soil sampling,” Westcott says. “This allows me to see my farm with a more accurate view, more precise, so I know what the fertilizer need is out there.”

But it is not just at this location. Westcott soil-samples three to four farms every year.

Based on the soil-sample results, Westcott targets fertilizer application to weaker areas of the farm. “I can get a lot better use out of my fertilizer dollar this way,” he adds.

Season-long crop management decisions

When it comes to fertilizer placement, Westcott takes a split approach.

Before the corn seed goes in the ground, there is a preplant anhydrous application. This year, he tried a starter fertilizer at planting for the first time. Later, the local cooperative topdressed the corn with treated urea.

For in-season plant nutrition, Westcott gives it a boost with fungicides. “I like to see a healthy plant,” he adds.

“Jeff and Kati are doing all the right things,” Dennis says. “They're putting the right genetics out there, the right fertilizer programs, chemistry and fungicide. They're giving crop the very best chance it has to be successful. It’s just really fun to be able to work alongside growers that are progressive minded and working toward those higher yields.”

For Westcott, the quest for maximum yield boils down to his driving farming principle: “I focus on getting the most out of the land I have.”

About the Author(s)

Mindy Ward

Editor, Missouri Ruralist

Mindy resides on a small farm just outside of Holstein, Mo, about 80 miles southwest of St. Louis.

After graduating from the University of Missouri-Columbia with a bachelor’s degree in agricultural journalism, she worked briefly at a public relations firm in Kansas City. Her husband’s career led the couple north to Minnesota.

There, she reported on large-scale production of corn, soybeans, sugar beets, and dairy, as well as, biofuels for The Land. After 10 years, the couple returned to Missouri and she began covering agriculture in the Show-Me State.

“In all my 15 years of writing about agriculture, I have found some of the most progressive thinkers are farmers,” she says. “They are constantly searching for ways to do more with less, improve their land and leave their legacy to the next generation.”

Mindy and her husband, Stacy, together with their daughters, Elisa and Cassidy, operate Showtime Farms in southern Warren County. The family spends a great deal of time caring for and showing Dorset, Oxford and crossbred sheep.

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