Georgia farmer Randy Dowdy topped the 2016 National Corn Growers Association Corn Yield Contest with a 521-bushel-per-acre average.
For the overall win, Dowdy used AgriGold variety A6499STXRIB submitted under the Till-Strip Till Irrigated division of the contest; the precise yield was 521.3968 bushels per acre. The overall second-place winner was 501 bushels per acre by Kevin Dowdy of Georgia with AgriGold variety A6499STXRIB submitted under the Irrigated division. This is the first time in the history of the NCGA contest two entries surpassed the 500-bushel mark in the same year.
The first-generation farmer began farming a decade ago but started growing corn in 2008, and in the last few years has been at the top or near the top of several national corn yield contest categories with more than 300 bushels per acre in 2011 and 2012, then 400 bushels per acre in 2013 and then 503 bushels per acre in 2014.
Virginia farmer David Hula won the contest in 2015, hitting 532 bushels per acre with a Pioneer variety.
At an AgriGold press event Dec. 19, Dowdy said, “I’m honored to be here and humbled by it and I’m thankful that people would come out for an historic day. … And it has been my great pleasure to work with a lot of the people associated with AgriGold.”
During the event, Dowdy emphasized the importance of a uniform emergence, making sure that all the plants come up at the same time, as a key to good yields and timely fertilizer management, which includes a banded starter fertilizer application on both sides of the seed.
“If we’re looking for a 250-bushel stand, we’re going to fertilize for 250 bushels. If we got a 400-bushel stand, we are going to fertilize for 400. Get that stand first and then you worry about nutrients,” Dowdy said. “From a nutrient standpoint, we have learned from tissue sampling and flat out experience the hard way that it’s not just the sufficiency of the nutrients, but it’s the balance of the sufficiency as well.”
To get top yields, Dowdy encourages farmers to try new things and be willing to do things different than they’ve always done and be a student of the crop. “Know what’s going on in the field, don’t hope what’s going on,” he said.
“I always say in all of the meetings that we go to and I try to influence growers that a definition of insanity is doing the same things over and over again and expecting different results,” Dowdy said. “We farmers are creatures of habit. Jesus could tell some farmers what to do, and they still wouldn’t do it any different. I understand that. And that’s a tough battle. Industry has a tendency to get tunnel vision and farmers are guaranteed to have tunnel vision and universities tend to have tunnel vision.”
Dowdy is a student and champion of high yields for soybeans, too, clocking a record 171-bushel-per-acre on his Georgia farm this summer. The new soybean record came from a 3.15-acre plot of UniSouth Genetic 74A74, a group 4 indeterminate variety.
A record year
A record five national entries surpassed the 400-plus bushel per acre mark in the contest, which is in its 52nd year and remains NCGA’s most popular program for members. Participation in the contest remained strong in 2016 with 7,972 entries received.
“The contest provides farmers more than just an opportunity for friendly competition; it generates data that impacts future production practices across the industry,” said Brent Hostetler, chair of NCGA’s Stewardship Action Team. “The techniques first developed by contest winners grow into far-reaching advances, helping farmers across the country excel in a variety of situations. Our contest emphasizes innovation both from growers and technology providers, thus enabling us to meet the growing demand for food, feed, fuel and fiber.”
The 18 winners in six production categories had verified yields averaging more than 375 bushels per acre, compared to the projected national average of 175.3 bushels per acre in 2016.
“So many corn farmers initially join the National Corn Growers Association for the chance to participate in the National Corn Yield Contest,” said Paul Taylor, chair of NCGA’s Engaging Members Committee. “Yet, as they become more familiar with the breadth of activities NCGA carries out on the behalf of farmers, these members become increasingly involved and supportive. Just as the contest promotes the on-farm techniques developed by many single growers to benefit all corn farmers, NCGA’s grassroots efforts join the single voices of members together to create positive change and real opportunities for our industry.”
Winners receive national recognition in publications such as the NCYC Corn Yield Guide, as well as cash trips or other awards from participating sponsoring seed, chemical and crop protection companies. In New Orleans, during the 2017 Commodity Classic, winners will be honored during the NCGA Awards Banquet and the NCYC State Winners Breakfast.