By Mary Hightower
University of Arkansas
Soybean farmers set the bar high by breaking the 100-bushel-per-acre barrier. Some of the secrets of their success include early planting and following Extension recommendations.
Matt Miles of McGehee has become the first Arkansas grower to break the 100-bushel per-acre barrier two years in a row. Miles squeaked over the mark, harvesting 100.609 bushels per acre on a field planted April 18 in Pioneer P45T11R. In 2013, he was part of a trio of growers who broke the 100-bushel-per-acre barrier during a season where growing conditions were nearly perfect for soybeans.
It was so close, “my combine operator asked me, ‘do you have any skin left on your teeth?’” Miles said.
Unlike 2013, the 2014 growing weather was notably cooler and wetter.
“What was scaring me more than anything was the amount of moisture and the amount of stress we got between the cold and the moisture,” he said. “We were very nervous.”
Miles said he received a congratulatory call from fellow Desha County resident Nelson Crow. In 2013, Crow became first Arkansas farmer to make the milestone, with a 100.83-bushel-per-acre harvest. Miles scored a whopping 107.63 bushels per acre last year.
“Nelson and I have been trading information. We’ve kind of been helping each other,” Miles said, adding, “I told him I knew how he felt last year and that maybe this year he’ll be at 108 bushels.”
Jeremy Ross, Extension soybean agronomist for the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture, said he wasn’t really surprised. The southern part of the state, where Miles lives, “had really similar environmental conditions to last year. Once you get north of Jefferson County, Stuttgart and Helena, we were wetter than 2013.”
Ross said that Miles didn’t do anything unorthodox to achieve his high yields.
“Matt and Nelson do baby their beans a little bit,” Ross said, but “a lot of what they do are our recommendations.”
Extension specialists and agents offer production recommendations based on solid research.
Lake Village Grower Smashes Soybean Yield Record In 2014 With 112.012 Bu/A
“I didn’t do anything special,” Bennett said. “I’ve got Gus Wilson, my county agent – I owe most of it to him. He stayed out in the field most of the year watching them for me. I’d done everything at the right time.”
Bennett grew Asgrow 4632, the same variety the Mileses used in setting the record in 2013.
When he heard of the high yield figure, Rick Cartwright, associate director of Agriculture and Natural Resources for the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture, instantly thought of the late Carl Hayden, a former Extension staff chair in Chicot County.
Hayden worked with former Extension Soybean Specialist Lanny Ashlock, taking the research and getting farmers to put the science to work. Among the techniques he encouraged was early planting, proper planting populations and furrow irrigation that result in really high yields.
Setting the Bar High
Wes Kirkpatrick, Desha County Extension staff chair for the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture, said there’s healthy competition among growers.
“Matt has set the bar pretty high. They know how to grow soybeans,” he said. “This is the first time that something like this has ever happened two years in a row on the same farm.”
However, no big event is without drama.
Kirkpatrick was among the team charged with certifying the harvest as part of the Arkansas Soybean Association’s Grow for the Green Soybean Yield Contest.
“We showed up at the elevator, and, of course, when you’re anticipating something, time creeps by,” he said.
Obtaining the net weight the certification team needed would normally take 30 minutes. On that night, it took 2.5 hours, thanks to equipment problems.
The 100-bushel-per-acre yield had long been a goal for Arkansas soybean growers and Crow, Matt and Sherrie Miles and Eddie Tackett of Atkins, shared the $50,000 prize in the 2013 Race for 100 competition, which is funded by the Arkansas Soybean Promotion Board.
Husband and Wife Take Honors
Sherrie Miles became the second Arkansas soybean grower to break the 100-bushel-per acre barrier in two straight years – just a week after her husband Matt became the first to repeat the feat.
Miles laughed when asked if she wished her plot was harvested before Matt’s, saying that “they weren’t quite dry enough.”
Her yields were certified at 106.499 bushels per acre, growing Pioneer 48T53R. On Sept. 11, 2014, husband Matt’s field came in at 100.609 bushels.
“She kicked my butt, that’s all I can say,” Matt Miles said. “She took a field that’s been a lower-producing field and did better than I did. A guy once told me, ‘To be a good farmer, you have to have a better wife.’ There’s a lot of truth in that.”
At the elevator, Miles, her family, farm manager Billy Garner and consultant Rob Dedman were all sitting around the table waiting to hear the results. “I was trying to be a lady, trying to be real calm, but was just eaten up inside,” she said. “The men were all excited and talking about it and guestimating the total before the weight came through. It was all very exciting.”
Last year, Matt and Sherrie broke the 100-bushel mark together on land that had been in Sherrie’s family for three generations.
“We work well together,” she said. “I’m very proud of him and I know he thinks the same of me.”
Sherrie Miles’ plot this year “was a whole different field in a whole different county. It’s in Ashley County,” she said.
2014 was a good year for Matt, Sherrie and their son Layne. “We had several other fields that cut exceptionally well,” she said, adding the family saw a lot of 90-plus-bushels per acre yields.
“I’ll say it again, the Mileses know how to grow soybeans,” said Kirkpatrick.
A number of factors, including the Grow for the Green contest hosted by the Arkansas Soybean Association and funded by the Arkansas Soybean Promotion Board, have helped focus attention on soybeans.
“Soybean markets have been up and we’re figuring out we can make some money if we manage them right,” Kirkpatrick said. “There are a lot of good soybeans this year.”
Kirkpatrick, who is part of the contest certification team, said yields have been so good the last two years, that “decimal points are separating some of the contestants.”
Soybeans are Arkansas’ biggest crop by acreage, with more than 3.15 million acres planted in 2014.
For more information about soybean production, contact your county Extension office or visit www.uaex.edu or http://arkansascrops.com. To learn more about the Grow for the Green contest, visit www.arkansassoybean.com.
This article was provided by the University of Arkansas Division of Agriculture. Contact Mary Hightower at firstname.lastname@example.org.
2014 100-plus yields
• Sept. 11 – Matt Miles, McGehee – 100.609 bu/A
• Sept. 11 – David Bennett, Lake Village – 112.012 bu/A
• Sept. 18 – Sherrie Miles – 106.499 bu/A
2013 100-plus yields
• Nelson Crow, Dumas – 100.78 bu/A
• Matt and Sherrie Miles, McGehee – 107.63 bu/A
• Eddie Tackett, Atkins – 104.83 bu/A