David Bennett was something of a johnny-come-lately to the party high-yielding soybean producers have been throwing in Southeast Arkansas over the last two seasons.
But all of that didn’t matter when independent observers confirmed that Bennett had set the new soybean yield record of 112 bushels per acre among entries in the Arkansas Soybean Association’s Grow for the Green yield contest in September.
Bennett’s contest field was planted with Asgrow 4632 soybeans on April 22 — late by Bennett’s standards. The relatively late planting date meant Bennett and his partners were still harvesting soybeans in late September.
“It feels good,” says Bennett, who farms near Lake Village with his brother Michael, father Earl and nephews Nelson and Layeton, after the word began to spread about his accomplishment. “I’m lucky, happy, just riding the wave.”
A total of five fields have broken 100 bushels per acre in the southeast corner of Arkansas in the last two years. The growers who planted and harvested those fields practice a higher level of management, but they also believe favorable weather has had a lot to do with their success.
“We did nothing special to the field,” says David Bennett. “Really, it was just cool weather, good genetics, good recommendations and close management.”
Contests participation assured
There was never any doubt the Bennetts would put the field in the Arkansas Soybean Association’s Grow for the Green contest.
“That was decided because last year I didn’t think we had the yield, and I was wrong. We had two 40-acre fields side-by-side, and when I cut one it yielded over 100 bushels for the whole field.
“I said, ‘Daddy, let’s see what this next field cuts and put it in the contest.’ That field ended up yielding 98.9 bushels and good enough for third place in the contest.”
The family operation used a twin-row planter with 38-inch middles to plant the field and applied CruiserMaxx as a seed treatment. The strong, sandy loam soil that once grew cotton almost every year was in corn in 2013.
Why Asgrow 4632?
“We utilize the county Extension office a great deal,” says David. “Our agent, Gus Wilson, knows his business and makes solid recommendations. In the past, we always had plots looking at 25 or 30 different varieties. It’s time-consuming but by doing it we can see what excels on certain ground.
“We knew it was going to be a good field. Just before harvest, a friend pulled a stalk that had 239 pods on it.”
Never lacked moisture
Once the beans grew large enough to irrigate, “we barely let it dry up. We let it get firm enough to put a sprayer in before it lapped the middles. It was never in standing water, but we kept it moist.”
Look out the office window and Lake Chicot is across the street. “We pump out of that, so there’s plenty of salt-free water,” says David.
“Last year was the first time that field had a disk in it since 2000. We are minimum-till farmers — harvest and go right behind to hip up. If possible, we also put out the N, P, K in the fall for our bean ground. This season we didn’t even have to pull a roller on the field since the winter flattened it down.”
The contest field was sprayed with Brigade one time for stink bugs.
There’s one big difference between Bennett’s 100-bushels field and others that have accomplished the feat.
No fungicide used
“I used no fungicide. That isn’t because I dislike them — we use them frequently. But the field just didn’t need it. It would have been like getting up in the morning and taking a couple of aspirins even though you don’t have a headache. Why spend the money?”
That’s another reason Gus Wilson is such a good agent, David says. “He didn’t try and talk me into using a fungicide. He isn’t afraid to tell you not to do something.”
David insists that seed companies be included in the conversation. “Once Roundup Ready beans came on, they really focused on providing genetics for this area.
“Before the herbicide-tolerant beans came along, we were spraying all kinds of herbicides on the beans. It didn’t burn the leaves, but it had to be hurting our yields. That’s a benefit that most folks don’t think about.”
David says the experience of harvesting record yields was exciting. “When they finally certified the yield the visits and calls of congratulations didn’t stop. We all had fields in the contest — mine was just the one that hit.”
The Bennetts, says Earl, are “big believers in inoculants on mixed dirt. We’re especially careful to use it on soil that used to be in fish ponds.”
P and K “really help with our bean yields,” says David. “We’ve seen dramatic increases. I’m guessing across the farm this year, we’re averaging close to 80 bushels an acre.”
Less irrigation required
The family’s farm is “probably 95 percent irrigated,” says Michael. “This year, like everyone else, our irrigation was way down. The rains just kept coming at the right time.
“You put that beside the cooler temperatures and that equals up to great crops. It isn’t just us. Everyone around here has done well.”
Earl is also quick to praise their landlords. “They let us try things. Twenty years ago, we started leveling the fields and one didn’t want to deal with the expense.
“I said, ‘Well, we’ll do this field on our dime, because I’m convinced it’ll pay off. We’re going to be farming this land and want it to be profitable. Let’s just see what happens.’”
At the time, the Bennetts were cutting five to eight bushels per acre. This year, that same ground cut 92 bushels.
“That comes from simply fertilizing it properly, keeping the bean/corn rotation and irrigating on time,” says Earl.
“Dad’s right: We’re so fortunate to have landlords like we have,” says David. Many of them have seen Michael and me grow up.”