Taking aim at higher soybean yields: Part II

2014 marked the first year that Pavo, Ga., producer Randy Dowdy grew full-season soybeans.

“In 2012, we grew corn and planted soybeans behind it and made 45-bushel beans,” he says. “That’s pretty good for a second crop, especially when corn is $8 and soybeans are $15. You have the potential to make some money.”

Soybeans are no longer quite as enticing from the price standpoint, but Dowdy decided to try full-season soybeans in 2014. He became the first grower to harvest 400-bushel corn and 100-plus bushel soybeans in the same year.”

“Last year was the first year I’ve grown full-season soybeans irrigated,” he noted. “We’ve grown double-cropped beans behind corn, double-cropped beans behind wheat and dryland full-season beans, but we had never committed a pivot for full-season beans. We like to keep those pivots moving. We don’t want them to be a statue in the field, but to help us make money.”

Dowdy was approached by John Woodruff, retired Extension soybean specialist at the University of Georgia, about the possibility of growing higher-yielding soybeans. Dr. Woodruff and Eddie McGriff, agronomist with Southern States Cooperative, worked with Dowdy to help figure out how to top 100 bushels of soybeans per acre.

“We had some fields that made – for the contest – 108-, 109- and 116-bushel beans,” said Dowdy, speaking at a BASF Grow Smart Media Event at the Memphis, Tenn., Agricenter International.

“Those same Ph. D.s are looking at the beans now (on Aug. 26). They were out there pulling plants, counting beans, doing plant population stand counts,” he said. “I’ve heard numbers from 100 to 140, so we’ll see. The combine tells the tale. I can’t look at a bean at this point and give a good faith estimate on production.”

Having produced a whole farm average yield of 369 bushels per acre in 2014 and 400-bushel-plus yields and much higher for the National Corn Growers Association National Corn Yield Contest, Dowdy says his experience with corn gives him a better feel for what corn yields might be.

He wasn’t talking about this year’s corn yields, other than to see he hoped to replicate last year’s 503.79-bushel-per-acre record yield or exceed it.

“I think we have some pretty good beans, but all that matters is money – return on investment,” he noted. “What is the bottom line? How much did you make. Contest yields are fun. One nice thing about the 503 bushels is we did it with $2.67 a bushel. That’s spending over $1,300 an acre. But if you sold it for $4, you still made a nice return.”

Most of the corn Dowdy grows is irrigated, almost totally with center pivots. The only corn not watered is in the corners of the fields that can’t be reached with the pivot gun. He has tried sub-surface irrigation but says it was not a good fit for the rolling terrain of the field where the experiment was conducted.”

Irrigation can be a crucial agreement. He joked that someone is building an ark and the animals are pairing up on his one of his farms where his peanuts have received nearly 20 inches of rain in recent days, Other fields on other farms have received almost no rainfall in recent weeks.

To read more about Dowdy’s operation, visit www.growbigcorn.com.

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