Nelson Crow walks through his Winchester, Ark., soybeans pointing out the abundance of four-bean pods.
Following last year’s undeniable success -- when he became the first Arkansan to break the 100-bushel yield barrier in the state’s yield challenge contest -- Crow is considering the possibility of a repeat. It could easily happen; his 2014 contest field is loaded.
“What happened this year was kind of a freak occurrence,” says Crow, with his consultant, Rick Deviney, standing alongside. “It was about April 10, and rain was in the forecast. We started here because they were calling for the rains and this is heavy ground. It got very cold the next week.”
As soon as the planter left the field, the men discovered a problem. “The bearing went out. So, there’s about a 36-hour difference from the first place we planted to here, where we finished. Then, we came in with a big spray rig and sprayed Verdict. It tore these beans up.”
Now, in late August, the Pioneer 48T53 variety in the field is nearing the finish line and has plainly recovered from the early-season troubles. “These were loaded up with seed treatments, the works,” says Crow.
Many point to Crow’s 2013 100-bushel feat being done with 3.9 soybeans. Matt Miles, Crow’s long-time friend and fellow 100-bushel club member from just down the road, says “Nelson and I have had fun comparing notes. I’ll be just as excited if he sets a new state record. He cut 100 bushels last year on a 3.9. That’s almost a bigger feat, in my opinion, than cutting 100 on a 4.6. I’m very proud of him.”
Crow and Deviney cut a field of 3.9 beans just yesterday. “They yielded 83 bushels. They did what they normally have around here -- 75 bushels to 85. I’ve been planting that bean for six or seven years. I hope they don’t get rid of it.”
How did Crow treat the field of Pioneer beans compared to last year’s 3.9s?
“We treated this whole field the same way we did the (40-acre) test plot last year. We put on two shots of Priaxor with a pound of sugar each time. The only thing we changed is upping urea to 150 pounds. We also applied 250 pounds of 0-26-26 dry fertilizer.
“We may have had to irrigate three times. It seems like every time we began to irrigate it would rain.”
The men have done pod counts on the field. Of the five plants pulled, “there were 85 three-bean pods and with the laterals added in, the average was 120 total pods. The rest were one- and two-bean pods. So, we were running 120 to 130 pods per plant.
“Next year, when it gets to be primo planting time, we’re going to back some seeding rates down.”
Lanny Ashlock, with Arkansas Soybean Promotion Board (ASPB) outreach, is looking over several plants from the field. “Everything is compressed on these plants. That goes back to the cold weather. But they’re good, stout plants. Pods are at every node.”
Asked about the reaction after last year’s success, Crow says there have been a multitude of questions about how to grow 3.9 beans. “Actually, I think they sold out of the 3.9’s around here. Lots of people called about them. Those who have called back say, ‘Man, these beans look good. They’re quick.’
“We’ve kind of figured out those 3.9’s, know how to handle them. You’ve got to be quick with the water and can’t back up on them. They do like water.”
In 2015, Crow and Brad Koen, BASF consultant, plan to try a 2.9 bean. “We want to bring in a bean from the north, put it on small acreage and see how they do. How many pods can we put on a 2.9? It may not work worth a flip.”
Hearing of the plan, Ashlock cautions, “I wouldn’t be in a hurry to plant them -- maybe towards the end of April.”
Crow agrees: “Yes, no later than May 10.”
No longer an afterthought
The emergence of soybeans as more than a Mid-South afterthought intrigues Crow. “It used to be in the Mid-South that you put soybeans wherever you didn’t have cotton or rice. Now, they’ve come out of the closet and, with no more cotton, soybeans are going on our more productive ground. We have farmers across the Mid-South all trying to maximize bean yields -- and, man, there are some good farmers. We’re all pushing these beans, trying different things and finding out what they can do. It really is new territory.”
Queried on the state’s Grow for the Green and the Race for 100 contests, Crow asserts the yield challenge “has at least doubled my knowledge of soybeans.”
Miles is of the same mind. “Let me say: it’s pretty serious for me to pull a combine out of a buckshot field and move it into a contest field to harvest before a rain.
“I think it’s the best soybean contest in the United States. I’ve looked at some more of them and I think Arkansas is setting a precedent that others are trying to follow. It’s doing what it’s designed to do.”
The contests have “generated a ton of interest,” says Wes Kirkpatrick, Desha County Extension chair. “There are 16 contest fields in the county this year.”
Miles says he and consultant Robb Dedman “have enjoyed the contest. Once you do it, you want to do it again. You chase the yield and want to compare things we’re trying with other growers. I’ve made so many contacts through this.
“After last year, salesmen of different products come to my shop. They want me to try these things in my crop and sometimes I’ll try it on 10 acres. We must have 10 things like that out this year.
“What I’ve told a lot of people in trying to get more to sign up for the Arkansas Soybean Association is that there were a lot of 100-bushel beans cut last year that weren’t registered. We cut a field late on a Saturday afternoon that was better than the beans in the contest. Folks need to become members.”
Brad Doyle, president of the Arkansas Soybean Association (ASA), says the friendly competition in Desha County “is a great story. (Matt’s) learning from Nelson, he’s learning from (Matt). But in this process we’re all learning from each other. We’re compiling all the data from the entry forms and, hopefully, we’ll be able to put something out through the ASA to show everyone what the (contest entrants) are doing to make these yields.”
Doyle, who farms around Weiner, Ark., says his area faces challenges. “Hardpan is one of them. There’s very little deep tillage going on -- I don’t know anyone in our area of west Poinsett County that does that. It may be worth bringing that back.
“We tend to drill everything. There are a few with planters in eastern Poinsett County, but not in our part of the world.”