Farm Progress

Michigan wheat farmers draw national attention

Two growers place in the top five of the National Wheat Yield Contest.

March 6, 2017

3 Min Read
GOOD YIELDS: Michigan wheat farmers set a record this past summer with a state average yield of 89 bushels per acre, topping the national average of 55 bushels.

The state’s wheat growers knew they had a good crop in 2016 — not just for Michigan, but also against the rest of the U.S. Michigan wheat farmers Gordon Briggs and David Eickholt represented the Great Lakes state by taking second and fifth, respectively, in the new National Wheat Yield Contest. 

Briggs, from Scottville, placed second in the irrigated winter wheat category, and Eickholt, from Chesaning, garnered fifth in the dryland winter wheat category of the contest, which was sponsored by Monsanto, BASF, John Deere and Winfield.

“Most Michigan wheat farmers were very pleased with their harvest in 2016,” says David Milligan, chairman of the Michigan Wheat Program and a farmer from Cass City. “We were excited to set new statewide records for total production and yield per acre. We were also very pleased to see the good showing from Michigan farmers, as the results were shared in the National Wheat Yield Contest.”

“We knew we had a good year, but to have three growers finish with yields above 130 bushels per acre in the dryland category and two above 140 bushels per acre in the irrigated category gave us an additional sense of pride, as our yields were compared with other growers from across the nation,” Milligan adds.

The National Wheat Yield Contest, which was restarted in 2016 after a 20-year hiatus, evaluates wheat yield in four categories by comparing the farmer’s yield against the average wheat yield in their county of residence. Farmers compete in either spring or winter wheat and then either irrigated or dryland. Each state has winners in either irrigated or dryland production and from those winners the national winners are selected.

Michigan growers produce winter wheat, so all of the winners in Michigan were in the winter wheat category.

The final yield of Briggs of Briggs Farms Inc. was 167.4 bushels per acre, which was 170% above the average in Mason County.  In the irrigated category, Eickholt harvested 141 bushels per acre, which is 108% above the Shiawassee County average.

In the overall contest, Eickholt placed fifth in the dryland (nonirrigated) winter wheat category with 147.7 bushels per acre, which was 117% above the average yield in Shiawassee County. 

Within Michigan’s dryland category, Mark Kleinheksel from Allegan County took second place with 132 bushels per acre, which is 98% of the county yield.  Placing third from Michigan was Dennis Philpot of Sanilac County at 132 bushels per acre, which is 72% above his county average.

Record state average
Michigan wheat farmers set a record this past summer with a state average yield of 89 bushels per acre, topping the national average of 55 bushels per acre. Michigan’s total yield in 2016 was also a record at 50.7 million bushels, which surpassed 2013’s crop of 45 million bushels of wheat. With a national harvest of 1.7 billion bushels, Michigan produces about 3% of the nation’s total wheat crop and ranks annually between 10th and 12th in wheat production.

“Clearly Michigan is a fantastic location for growing wheat,” says Jody Pollok-Newsom, executive director of the Michigan Wheat Program. “Not only does our climate make us a great place for wheat, but our innovative farmers make wheat a strong crop in the Great Lakes state. As we look at a 14-bushel increase in our average yield per acre over just the past four years, it gives growers a reason to give wheat a second look. To learn more, we invite growers to attend our Michigan Wheat Program 2017 annual Winter Grower Meeting, March 14, 2017, at the Bavarian Inn Lodge in Frankenmuth. Both Briggs and Eickholt will be on a panel discussing their outstanding yields.”

The 2016 winners of the National Wheat Yield Contest were recognized at the 2017 Commodity Classic conference in San Antonio. Michigan wheat growers interested in competing in the 2017 National Wheat Yield Contest can enter through the Michigan Wheat Program website at

Source: Michigan Wheat Program

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