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Quest for higher yields brings change: Part III

More than one farmer has told me during my 30-plus-years with Delta Farm Press that he wished his grandfather or great-grandfather had just driven his wagon 30 or 40 miles farther west when he settled in the area his descendants are now farming.

There’s not much a farmer can do about the land he’s working short of selling it and relocating somewhere else. Most, like Randy Dowdy, the Georgia producer who grew 503.79 bushels of corn per acre in 2014, try to make the best of what their land and the Good Lord gives them.

“Everybody has said he’s doing this with land that is only good for holding the world together,” says Dowdy, referring to the land her farms near Pavo in southwest Georgia. “Imagine what he could do with better soils.”

While he might wish for better soils, Dowdy is philosophical about the situation. “Quite often, when you’ve got really good soils, you get lazy,” he notes. “Management is a lot of it, and you take a lot for granted. But I think if God made it, we can work with it. We do the best we can and make sure we’re not the limiting factor ourselves.

“Everything that is in our control – we’re checking that box to make sure we provide the plant everything it needs, before it needs it.”

Some of Dowdy’s land has been compared to“beach sand.” Others are sandy loams, but none have high organic matter or water-holding capacity. Fortunately, Dowdy has an abundant supply of water which he uses to irrigate 90 percent of his corn acres.

“We have good water in our area. We’re 20 minutes north of the Florida line, and we have a good aquifer system,” he says. “But they’re monitoring our water usage through flow meters. Right now we’re not under the gun where we’re limited.

“Could regulations come? Absolutely. But we try to be as conservative as we can. One good thing about our area is we get a lot of tropical storm pressure, and it seems to recharge our aquifer quite often because of our vicinity and our location.”

Dowdy also tries to be sparing in his use of nitrogen and other crop nutrients. “That’s one reason we make as many applications as we do,” he said. “We’re trying to reduce risk. I’m down to .9 units of nitrogen for every bushel I make. We’re fairly efficient, and we’re not just throwing everything out and hoping that it’s going to be there.”

He uses tissue sampling to monitor how much of his plant nutrients are reaching the plant. “And at the end of the year we see how efficient we were or were not. We use nitrogen stabilizers, such as NutriSphere, and we’re using Avail and products that help us be more efficient and be stewards so the plant can get it instead of us losing that opportunity.”

Can he repeat last year’s record yield? As is customary, growers rarely discuss their yields until the National Corn Growers Association National Corn Yield Contest results are announced late in the year.

“Obviously, the goal will be to replicate it and to duplicate the yield or go higher,” he says. “We’ll see – a lot has to go right outside of Randy. Some of that is not in Randy’s control, obviously. I think if I’ve done it, someone else will do it. David (Hula) made 476 in Virginia last year, and there’s not a lot of distance between those two numbers.

“As far as beans are concerned, if we could make 140 bushels in our second year, that’s pretty exciting. And we’re looking to see if we can break that 160 – that’s the goal.” (Kip Cullers harvested 160 bushels of soybeans per acre on his farm near Purdy, Mo. The yield is the highest ever recorded.)

For more on Dowdy’s farming operation, visit and



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