Matt Miles says he's one of a small group of farmers he considers "some of the best in the United States."
Some might consider that bragging except for one thing: That small group of growers has harvested more than 100 bushels of soybeans per acre, some of them, including Miles, for two years in a row in the Arkansas Soybean Association's Grow for the Green Challenge.
Miles was a speaker at the National Conservation Systems Cotton and Rice Conference in Baton Rouge, La. (The Cotton and Rice Conference, the name it took when it started 18 years ago, has now been expanded to include the Southern Corn and Soybean Conference.)
Miles and his wife, Sherrie, and son, Layne, farm 6,300 acres in Ashley and Desha Counties in southeast Arkansas, where at least a half dozen growers have harvested more than 100 bushels of soybeans in the Arkansas Soybean Association contest. About 85 percent of the Miles acreage is planted in corn and soybeans, a reversal from the years prior to 2006 when it mostly was in cotton.
"Our soybeans always used to be on our poorest land," says Miles. "We took the least amount of care of them. We might have a 100-acre field with 25 acres of clay, and we would put the soybeans down there."
Miles credits fellow Southeast Arkansas producer Jim Whittaker with getting him on the road to growing high-yielding soybeans. "I called him and told him 'y'all are growing some of the best soybeans around, and I'd like to know what you're doing?"
He also pointed to Billy Gardner, his farm manager in Ashley County, and Rob Dedman, his consultant from Rison, Ark., as being integral parts of his operation. "These two guys push me to push these soybeans harder."
Most of the soybeans he grows are Pioneer varieties, he said. He will try other brands, planting them on 15 to 20 acres to see how they compare to his standby varieties. He said he plants about 150,000 seed per acre because "invariably, we plant when it's too cold, and we up the seeding rate to make sure we get a stand."
Miles has been an advocate of twin-row planters until now. "We drag a single-row planter around with us wherever we go," he noted. "For several years, we were averaging six or seven bushels more per acre with twin rows. But the last two years, we only harvested a bushel to a bushel-and-a-half per acre on twin rows. So we're rethinking some of that."
For more on the Grow for the Green Challenge, visit http://www.arkansassoybean.com/Yield-Contest-.html