Doug and Christy Aylward are not managing for high yields on just a 10-acre section of their farm. No, the couple treats every soybean acre as though it could win a yield contest, and this year it worked. They raised 96-bushel beans on creek bottom ground in northern Missouri.
“We planted the same beans there that we planted in other places,” Christy says. This year it was Asgrow’s 36X6, an Xtend variety, and it topped the company’s national yield contest. But Doug admits it was a phenomenal year for soybeans on their farm, unlike other parts of the state.
“I’ve seen 110-bushel beans before on the monitor, but it is not consistent,” he says. “It is about getting high yields across the entire farm. And this year, we had a whole farm average that made 82 bushels.”
Decades of use
The Aylwards are fifth-generation farmers, whose family has lived and worked the ground in this area since 1875. They know the land.
The couple, along with Doug’s parents John and Carole, run a corn and soybean rotation on 6,000 acres in northern Missouri and southern Iowa. “Our ground varies from flat prairie ground to rolling hills to bottom ground,” Doug explains. They incorporate the full gamut of tillage practices, including no-till, minimum till and conventional tillage depending on topography.
The family has always been conservation-minded. They were one of the first families in the county to build terraces back in the 1960s. “In fact,” Doug says, “those terraces are still in use today.”
And with every year, the family works to improve the land and its production capacity, whether it is hauling in rocks to help slow drainage, making sure ditches are cleaned, or pattern tiling to help water leave the field. The Aylwards are looking for every opportunity to get into the field early and keep the water and soil in place.
IN-SEASON MANAGEMENT: Doug and Christy Aylward make in-season spraying a priority. It is all part of their crop plan to push yields across all acres.
Last year, Doug planted his soybeans April 16, the earliest he’s seen over the past few years. The earlier the beans are planted, he notes, the better. “They seem to yield higher for us," he says.
The Aylwards start the process well before planting, all the way back to fall fertility. They put on high levels of phosphorus and potassium — 80 pounds per acre of P and 120 pounds per acre of K.
Input from agronomists and seed dealers helps determine the best variety to plant. The family sowed Roundup Ready 2 Xtend soybeans last year and would like to plant some acres this year to an XtendFlex variety if it receives regulatory approval.
Seed is treated before entering the ground. The family focuses on treatments that address three key areas — nematode suppression, late-season diseases and sudden death.
At the R3 growth stage, they apply a fungicide and an insecticide. “It makes for a healthier, more robust plant that stays alive longer,” Doug says. “In return, it makes the seeds larger at harvest, and the plant maintains its seed numbers.” Just how big of a difference do fungicide applications make? “I think the fungicide adds probably 10 to 12 bushels year in, year out,” he says.
While the agriculture economy is not as strong as it once was, the family is not skimping on inputs in 2020. “With low commodity prices,” Doug says, “it takes bushels to pay the bills and have some money left at the end of the year.”
BEAN EXPECTATIONS: The Aylward family heads into each planting season with a plan for their soybean acres. It includes quality seed, seed treatments, and fertility and fungicide applications, all to produce more soybeans per acre.
More to give
While 96 bushels per acre helps fill the grain bins at the family farm outside of Memphis, Mo., Doug contends it is not the peak for American soybean farmers.
Over the years, he and his seed dealers joked that the next plateau in soybean production should be 100-bushel beans. They already have seen producers realize 75- to 80-bushel averages on large acres. But over the next five to 10 years, Doug says soybean producers could see yields increase by 15 or 20 bushels.
“What we thought was a lofty goal here four or five years ago,” he says, “is about to become a reality.”
Achieving that breakthrough takes a commitment to innovation. “Doug and John just strive for excellence,” Christy says. “They just want to do things right.” But it boils down to one thing: preservation.
The couple want to give their children an opportunity to continue the family farm legacy. Their son, Brock, is a high school senior who will be attending the University of Missouri and majoring in agribusiness management. Their daughter, Bryn, is a high school freshman.
“We would love for both of our kids to come back home and join the operation,” Christy says, noting that Brock already has expressed an interest. “It is about achieving yields to sustain the farm for generations.”
But she’s quick to add it also is just the overall mindset and genetic makeup of her farmer husband.
“Pushing yields is fun for us,” Doug says laughing. “It is what drives farmers every year to head back to the field.”