Growers' plot sets records

Thursday, October 4, 2012
Four combines finish their last pass in the soybean field at the Clay County Growers Association plot near Greenville on Tuesday afternoon. Not only was this year the first time four combines were used at once, but it was also the earliest harvest, with a record number of soybean entries, record corn yields and potentially record soybean yields. (Photo by Gabe Licht)

Throughout the dry summer, Dave Hessman kept a close eye on the Clay County Growers Association plot he supervises near Greenville.

"I thought all summer we were looking OK, but it never rained much," Hessman said.

With a corn harvest on Sept. 26 -- the earliest in the plot's 28-year history -- and Tuesday's soybean harvest in the books, Hessman is finding out just how "OK" the yields were.

"Corn is definitely the highest we've ever harvested and beans are going to be close to it," Hessman said.

While individual variety yields have yet to be calculated, the plot's dried corn average ranged from 190 to 215 bushels per acre, for a plot average of 202 bushels per acre. Soybean numbers are expected to be in the 60-bushel-per-acre range.

"We got through it, and with record yields," Hessman said. "That's pretty good."

He's not necessarily surprised by the findings.

"There's a reason that land brings $14,000 an acre," Hessman said. "It has such great water-holding capacity. When you get into lighter soils, the water goes right through it."

Hessman believes the area between Gillett Grove, Greenville, Rossie and Moneta is "some of the best soil in the world."

"It never fails," he said. "Look at the year we had and the yield we got. Back in 1988, that was another dry year, and we got 184 bushels per acre. We had others farming in the sand that got less than a bushel per acre. I think if we would have had the technology in 1988 that we have now, it would have yielded 200 bushel an acre then, too."

The plot had a plethora of biotechnology on display, with a record 128 soybean varieties, in addition to 110 corn hybrids.

"We had seven new companies enter this year," Hessman said. "I think one of the reasons they're interested is our plot has a long history. This is our 28th year. We don't play favorites. We take anybody and everybody who wants to enter."

Hessman is thankful for those participants, as well as the agricultural chemical companies that contribute their products to the plot. He is also pleased with the efforts of plot co-operators Al Patten and Everett Amis.

"They're very good, cooperative people to work with," Hessman said. "I just can't say enough about them. Anything we want to try to do, they'll help us do it."

In addition to planting a total of 238 seed varieties, the plot also experimented with early planting dates, starting in March. Other past experiments include using chicken and hot manure.

"We'll do some other kinds of projects next year," Hessman said.

He added that the plot does not go unnoticed.

"Every year after the fair I get 20 to 25 notes or cards that say, 'We saw your plot on the way to the fair. Can you send us the results?'" Hessman said. "They come from all around. ... That's why the location is so great."

In addition to the soil quality, of course.

"It's just amazing, with that amount of water, we pull off 200 bushel per acre corn," Hessman concluded. "But it did it, so we're just real happy with it all."

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