Kip Cullers has broken another yield record. This one might last a little longer than the last mark he set — and then it might not.
Cullers, one of the top finishers in last year's National Corn Growers Association Yield Contest, harvested 154.74 bushels of soybeans per acre from a 40-acre field on his farm near Stark City, Mo., Oct. 6.
The yield average, confirmed by the Missouri Soybean Association, is 15.35 bushels per acre higher than the record 139.39 bushels per acre Cullers harvested from the same field in 2006. The previous high was believed to be 118 bushels per acre, set in 1993.
“They did a little better than I expected,” said Cullers, who told a visitor to his farm in mid-August that he wasn't sure the soybeans were putting on enough pods in the top of the plant to produce high yields. “This variety, Pioneer 94M80, really seems to fit my operation well. It had a lot of clusters (of pods).”
Cullers was also concerned about the plant population — 220,000 plants per acre when the plants were 6 inches tall — in this year's field, which wasn't as high as the final population of 245,000 per acre in the field in 2006. That seemed to have little impact on the outcome.
“The variety was a big difference, but we had the same variety last year,” he said. “We also used Headline fungicide both years, so that was the same. I think the biggest factor was the Monosem planter I used to put them in last spring. It planted more like a planter than the drill I had been using.”
Cullers also credited a new seed treatment, Optimize, for helping boost his yield. “The roots were about twice as big on the plants with the seed treatment,” he said. “At $1.50 per unit, you almost can't afford to not put it on.”
When he first planted soybeans in the field in 2006, Cullers' objective was to improve the soil tilth by producing a high-yielding soybean crop that he hoped would be followed by a high-yielding corn crop.
Although he now holds back-to-back soybean yield records, Cullers says high corn yields remain his priority. In 2006, he harvested 347.27 bushels of corn in the no-till/strip-till, irrigated category of the National Corn Growers Yield Contest. His other yields were 338.24 bushels, 332.77 bushels and 297.11 bushels.
In 2006, he planted 300,000 soybean seed per acre, trying to put more plant material into the soil. With the Monosem planter, he was able to plant in twin rows spaced 7.5 inches apart and on 30-inch beds. The soil is a Newtonia red sandy loam. The field was conventionally tilled and irrigated, well, daily.
“I usually come by and turn on the pivot around six each morning,” Cullers told a visitor to his farm, which is located about 25 miles southeast of Joplin, Mo. “My hired hand or I turn it off around noon every day.”
Besides providing moisture — Cullers did not receive any rain on the field from July 3 until the end of August — the irrigation helps keep the plants cool. The air temperature soared above 100 degrees several days in southwest Missouri in mid-August.
Cullers applied Headline fungicide and Warrior insecticide to protect plants from diseases and insects. “The plant health was just excellent,” he said. “We had another field where we had disease problems. That field harvested a little over 100 bushels per acre. It was nothing really bad, but it wasn't that great.”
Pioneer 94M80 is a 4.8 maturity soybean that contains the Roundup Ready gene and is soybean-cyst-nematode resistant. “This variety really responds well to my program,” he said, “And I think it also seems to do well in the South.”
Cullers co-owns and operates K&K Farms, a highly diversified farming operation in Newton County in southwest Missouri. Cullers, who has been farming for 20 years, manages more than 5,000 acres of corn, soybeans, green beans and greens — spinach, collard, kale, mustard and turnips. The operation also includes beef, hay and poultry.
He says his experience with vegetables has helped him improve his row crop yields. “I'm a big advocate of preventive plant health because if there's any disease or insects in a vegetable crop, you can't sell it,” he says.
The tall, lanky farmer walks each field every day, trying to make sure nothing gets by him. He applied the Headline fungicide at first bloom and followed that with another application three weeks later. The field also received a preventive application of Warrior insecticide.
Although he's entered the NCGA yield contest in the past, he wasn't thinking about soybean records until a Pioneer agronomist saw the field of 94M80 last year and urged him to have the field measured and the yield certified.
“He really got excited when he saw that field,” said Cullers. “I hadn't thought much about it. It just looked like they had a lot of pods on them.”
Cullers is a believer that size matters when it comes to soybeans. “I believe small seeds produce small soybeans, and big seeds yield big soybeans,” he notes. “These soybeans have a lot of four-bean pods that are really big and that added to yield.”
He is also impressed with this year's double-cropped soybeans. “These are some of the best double-cropped beans we've ever had,” he said. “Everyone here is putting in as much wheat as they can find.”