Winning yield contests takes knowledge, skill and, often, a little luck. For some winners, their reward is not just about hitting new yield highs, but about fine-tuning their production practices. These three state soybean contest winners have made some profitable discoveries on their quests for more bushels, and they’re happy to share strategies that have worked best for them.

 

Second fungicide pass

With 10 years of corn-yield contests under his belt, John Breedlove was not exactly green when he entered the 2011 Illinois Soybean Challenge. The Manito, Ill., grower liked the contest’s team concept of working with his agronomist at Sunrise Ag Services, in Havana. “It’s great to have someone help you set up your trials and document yield response,” he says.

“Every year I try to change one aspect of my management. Last year I added a second fungicide application,” he says. “I hadn’t necessarily seen severe fungal damage to my crops, but I had a hunch there might be more of problem with our irrigated crop than was visible.”

Breedlove’s hunch proved to be a profitable one. On half of his 10-acre test plot, he made his usual one fungicide application when the crop was about 4 in. tall. On the other half, he added a second application at bloom stage. “There was a 6-bu. yield advantage from the two applications,” he says. “An increase of between 1 and 1.5 bu. would have paid for the cost of the fungicide, so it’s a no-brainer to use a second treatment.”

This season Breedlove experimented with a late-season application of 100 lbs. each of K and manganese on 60 acres of soybeans, just before his crop reached the bloom stage. “A lot of my ground is sandier and doesn’t hold the K. I’ve tried it on my corn crop before and have gotten better test weights and a general greener appearance.”