Yield contest value goes way beyond titles and prizes. For these farmers, it’s less about bragging rights and more about boosting their bottom line that motivates them to participate. While each has a different set of management challenges, they all share a common thirst for knowledge.

Here’s what these winners say they gain from participating.

Set specific goals – For Joe Zenz of Lancaster, Wis., yield contests make him set specific yield goals. “My long-term yield goal is to hit the triple digits, but I don’t necessarily expect to do that in a year. If I can keep making a few bushels of progress each year, I think I’ll get there.”
Keep better records – Entering a contest makes you commit to a plan and keep good records, says Manito, Ill., farmer John Breedlove. For that, it helps that he can work with his agronomist at Sunrise Ag Service, Havana, Ill. “The Illinois Soybean Challenge requires that you team with your suppliers, which is a real benefit. Plus, we’re usually trying new things on a smaller scale this way, so it feels like less of a gamble.”

Access more resources – Being a winner in the 2011 Missouri yield contest gained Steve Riegel access to a broader group of agronomic experts, says the Washington, Mo., farmer. “For me, the biggest perk was being invited to a lot of industry meetings, and getting a trip to Commodity Classic. I got to talk to so many people and learned a lot.”

Try new things – All three growers say participating in yield contests spurs them to keep trying new things. “I spend a lot of time in the winter months attending meetings and trade shows to learn about new products and varieties, and to get ideas about improving my crop management,” says Zenz. “By making changes over the years, I’ve seen real yield increases.”