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Irrigation yield contest featured record-breaking water use efficiency in two categories.

Ginger Rowsey, Senior writer

February 7, 2022

4 Min Read
Chad Render
For the second year in a row, Arkansas farmer Chad Render is a winner in his state’s irrigation yield contest. Render placed first in the soybean division and broke the record for highest water use efficiency in that crop. He placed first in the corn division last year. Ginger Rowsey

There are two parts to Arkansas’ Most Crop Per Drop contest — maximizing yield and maximizing water use efficiency. 

It differs from most other yield competitions that simply look at how many bushels are produced per acre. This contest measures how many bushels are produced per acre-inch of water used. The winner may not have the greatest yields per acre, but he will have harvested the most bushels per inch of water. Water-use efficiency is calculated by dividing yield by the total water — rain plus irrigation — received by a field. 

Contest winners for the 2021 crop season were revealed January 26 during the virtual Arkansas Soil and Water Education Conference and Expo. Winners were awarded in three categories — corn, rice and soybeans. 

Soybean irrigation

1st: Chad Render, Pine Bluff, 5.23 bushels per inch / 98 bu/a 

2nd: Cody Fincher, Dyess, 4.69 bushels per inch / 100 bu/a 

3rd: Heath Donner, Manila, 4.63 bushels per inch / 89 bu/a  

Chad Render, who farms near Pine Bluff, Ark., won the soybean division with 5.23 bushels per inch and 98 bu/a. Render’s winning entry was also the highest water-use efficiency in the contest’s history in the soybean division. 

Render was the 2020 Most Crop Per Drop winner in the corn division. Contestants cannot compete in divisions after they win. Now that he’s won corn and soybeans, Render said he would like to take a shot at rice. 

“You gain so much knowledge from this contest, and that’s what I really love about it — how much you learn,” Render said.  

Render’s winning soybean field was a Pioneer 48A60 variety planted on March 22. When it comes to achieving high yields in soybeans, he said early is where it’s at. 

“Ideally we like to start planting soybeans around March 8. I think the early beans stack up tighter,” he said. “It starts with having nutrients in soils in the fall, having everything bedded up ready to plant, so I can start planting soybeans as early as I can.” 

Since beginning the contests, Render has been using soil moisture sensors and Delta Plastics Pipe Planner technology. While at first, he said he found it difficult to trust the sensors, his experiences have proven them a reliable indicator of plant health, that have reduced the number of annual waterings. 

“Many of these new varieties can push through stress. Old school farming tells us we need to nurture the plants, almost baby them, we grew up thinking that’s the best thing for the plant. This new technology shows us that is often not the best thing for them,” Render said. 

Stephen Hoskyn

Rice irrigation

1st: Stephen Hoskyn, Stuttgart, 9.77 bushels per inch / 239 bu/a 

2nd: Seth Tucker, Tillar, 6.31 bushels per inch / 203 bu/a 

3rd: Matthew Feilke, Stuttgart, 4.84 bushels per inch / 261 bu/a 

Stephen Hoskyn is a third-generation rice farmer near Stuttgart, Ark. who had never entered the contest before. However, on his first try he achieved the highest water use efficiency in the contest’s history for the rice division. This was also the first time in contest history that a row rice field took top honors.  

Hoskyn attributed his win, in part, to a novel pitless tailwater pump that was designed by University of Arkansas water management engineer Chris Henry. The tailwater system is designed to continuously recirculate water to improve crop uniformity maintain near field capacity top to bottom of the field throughout the growing season. 

Hoskyn planted his winning field on April 27.  

“Even though it was planted a little late, the yields were as good as I made anywhere, as good and maybe better than any of my flooded rice,” Hoskyn said. 

Corn irrigation

1st: Brandon Cain, Griffithville, 12.43 bushels per inch / 280 bu/a 

2nd: Terry Smith, Walcott, 12.27 bushels per inch / 254 bu/a 

3rd: Adam Chappell, Cotton Plant, 10.56 bushels per inch / 247 bu/a 

Brandon Cain from Griffithville, Ark. took home top honors in the corn division. Cain’s entry produced 280.7 bu/a of corn, at a water use efficiency of 12.43 bushels per inch of water. 

Cain has been entering the contest for three years and said his use of moisture sensors, Delta Plastics Pipe Planner technology and cover crops have all led to improved irrigation efficiency.  

See the video presentation here.

About the Author(s)

Ginger Rowsey

Senior writer

Ginger Rowsey joined Farm Press in 2020, bringing more than a decade of experience in agricultural communications. Her previous experiences include working in marketing and communications with the University of Tennessee Institute of Agriculture. She also worked as a local television news anchor with the ABC affiliate in Jackson, Tennessee.

Rowsey grew up on a small beef cattle farm in Lebanon, Tennessee. She holds a degree in Communications from Middle Tennessee State University and an MBA from the University of Tennessee at Martin. She now resides in West Tennessee with her husband and two daughters.

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