Hula and Haines grab NCGA yield titles
Results of the 2019 National Corn Yield Contest show solid representation from farmers in the Mid-Atlantic, most notably David Hula retaking the corn yield crown with his fourth record-breaking yield.
Hula, of Charles City, Va., posted a 616.1953 bushel-per-acre contest entry with a Pioneer hybrid in one of the contest’s irrigated divisions, shattering his previous world record set in 2017 by more than 70 bushels.
Of the six divisions for states outside the Corn Belt, Mid-Atlantic farmers placed first in four of them, and half of all farmers who placed first, second or third in those divisions were from the Mid-Atlantic.
Along with Hula, Drew Haines, a Middletown, Md., farmer, won the No-Till Non-Irrigated division and set a new state record with a 422.3521 bushel-per-acre entry; Heath Cutrell, of Chesapeake, Va., won the Conventional Non-Irrigated division with a 381.4666 bushel-per-acre entry and Dominick Santini of Phillipsburg, N.J., won the Strip, Min., Mulch Ridge-Till Non-Irrigated division with a 339.0991 bushel -per-acre entry.
Despite extreme weather challenges in many major corn growing areas, NCGA reported the 27 top-placing farmers in nine production categories had verified yields averaging more than 383 bushels per acre, more than double the projected national average of 167 bushels per acre in 2019.
Mid-Atlantic growers largely escaped weather challenges in growing corn.
Hula reported “ideal” planting conditions and got uniform emergence. Hula departed slightly from Renwood Farm’s continuous no-till program, planting the Pioneer P1197YHR hybrid into a strip till system using SoilWarrior equipment that tills only a few inches around the seed bed for planting and said it produced the best emergence this year.
From there, Hula and the Renwood team tracked plant health with routine tissue samples, soil analysis and timely nutrient applications.
“We’re not just dumping excess fertilizer,” he told DTN Staff Reporter Emily Unglesbee. “I am return-on-investment driven. I will give a corn crop a luxury feed, but only if it will respond. So we focus on when you can influence the crop the most.”
In Frederick County, Md., Haines said his national yield winner “blew my mind” passing last year’s contest yield of 366 bushels per acre, but he was just as impressed with its fertilizer efficiency, using about 30 fewer units of nitrogen than the general rule of one unit per bushel of yield goal.
“The crop was very efficient in the utilization of the fertilizer,” Haines said.
He credits great growing conditions this year and building organic matter and other soil health improvements over the past 10 years with putting him in position to set a new Maryland state yield record.
“Instead of buying new paint, we put the money back into the ground,” Haines said.
The hybrid he used for the contest entry, Dekalb’s DKC68-69RIB, was one he singled out a test trial on his farm in 2018.
A July storm that year damaged the hybrid’s stand but he was impressed by how it bounced back.
“I knew going in, that one was going to be good,” he said.
A self-described “corn nerd,” Haines said spreading out fertilizer applications in three passes and applying foliar products at least four times by helicopter through the season were key to achieving the high yield.
“It’s intense and it’s crazy,” he said. “We do that so the plant’s not wanting for anything.”
He touted the use of a custom blended product by Haines Ag called nectar that increases the plants’ brix level that he said deters pests and feeds soil microbes.
“I’m firm believer in high energy things,” Haines said. “It basically puts the corn on a sugar high.”
Applications of his own concoction called “dill weed juice” at pre-tassel and brown silk stages increases test weight and keeps the plant alive longer, he added.
Hula and Haines also cited their support networks of other growers, seed and company representatives and family that help them in their farming efforts.
“You can’t do it by yourself, it takes everyone,” Haines said.
Haines said competing in the contest has connected him with growers that he can share information with to help their farm and his family’s farm.
Looking over the contest results, he tallied 13 growers who placed nationally that he’s talked with before and during the crop year.
“Yield contest participants create and share information that shapes the future of the industry while participating in friendly competition,” said Roger Zylstra, chairman of NCGA’s Stewardship Action Team in a news release. “At both the state and national levels, contest winners find new ways to excel in a variety of situations. In turn, these innovations can help their fellow farmers face challenges as well.
“Our contest emphasizes invention and improvement, both from growers and technology providers, that enables U.S. farmers to meet the growing demand for food, feed, fuel and fiber.
The winners will be honored during Commodity Classic 2020 in San Antonio, Texas.
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