McMichen Farm of Centre in northeast Alabama became the first operation in the state to break the 100-bushel mark. They did so by cutting just more than 102 bushels per acre.
The Cherokee County farm has been in the McMichen family since 1842. It consists of Nick and his wife, Freida, along with father Randall and son Matt. Future son-in-law Tyler Bruce, who is engaged to Nick’s daughter, Mindy, joined the operation in 2015.
The record soybean yield was entered in Matt’s name, but Nick says it was a family effort. Nick quotes his favorite Bible verse, Psalm 67:7, “Then the land will yield its harvest, and God, our God will bless us.” He adds, “The Lord made the 100 bushels, we are merely his stewards.”
The McMichens will be recognized at the Alabama Farmers Federation Commodity Organizational Meeting in February as the first winners of the $10,000 Soybean 100-Bushel Yield Contest, according to a news release. The contest is funded by the Alabama Soybean Producers.
Carla Hornady, director of the Alabama Farmers Federation soybean division, says the state’s producers saw growers elsewhere making 100-bushel yields and wanted to encourage those in Alabama to reach the same goal.
“In 2015, our state soybean producers committee decided to fund Extension specialists Mark Hall and Dennis Delaney’s proposal for the $10,000 100-bushel yield challenge, so our growers would try different production practices to see if they could make higher yields,” Hornady said in the release. “We congratulate the McMichens as our first winner.”
Hall was thrilled to have a 100-bushel winner after more than 50 entrants in the challenge over the past three years. “While only one farm made the 100-bushel challenge, many entrants made record farm yields,” he says.
Nick Mcmichen credits the Alabama Cooperative Extension System for helping develop the plan he used to break the 100-bushel mark.
“We came close to the 100-bushel mark in the past, but I really worked close with the Alabama regional Extension agent and specialists to develop a production scheme to get me over the hump,” Nick said. “They advised to plant earlier to have pod fill during the longest days of the year to take advantage of extra sunlight.”
How the McMichens did it
The McMichens planted Pioneer 47T36 no-till in 30-inch rows at 140,000 seeds per acre on April 14. Ideal weather provided excellent emergence and a final stand count of 125,000 plants per acre.
“We were blessed with rain this year, and the beans didn’t suffer for moisture,” Nick says. “I irrigated only four times, with 0.4 inches during each irrigation.”
The McMichens applied 2 ½ tons of chicken litter per acre to the field before planting. ABM Graph-Ex SA inoculant and seed lubricant were applied to the seed to maximize the plant’s nitrogen production.
Weekly tissue samples were taken from the farm’s 2016 soybean crop that made 86 bushels per acre and discovered a shortage of potash—a common deficiency in high-yielding soybeans. Potash (K) levels decline rapidly in the leaf during pod fill as potash is translocated from the leaf to the beans.
K levels above 1.75 percent in the leaf are preferred as long as possible. In 2016, the K level in the leaf tissue samples dropped to 1.18 percent at pod fill and prevented the beans from getting the size needed to make a 100-plus bushels.
The McMichens’ soybeans averaged 2,140 beans per pound, which meant much of the yield came from the bean’s large size. Normally, soybeans average between 2,800 and 3,100 beans per pound. Nick said he learned a great deal from taking tissue samples the past two years.
For high yields, adequate potash levels are required during pod fill. He applied 100 pounds of 0-0-60 and 40 pounds of ammonium sulfate per acre over the top of the beans at R3 when the pods began to fill. This application was key in getting bigger beans and increasing yields.
The McMichens’ two biggest weed problems are pigweed (Palmer amaranth) and morningglories. Roundup and Sharpen were applied at burndown and then followed with Roundup and Dual at early postemergence. Two weeks later, an application was made with Roundup and FirstRate, resulting in excellent weed control.
Nick made a protective ground-applied fungicide application with Quadris at R3. He added Dimilin to give season-long suppression of soybean loopers, beanleaf beetles and other leaf-feeding pests; a pyrethroid for stinkbug and kudzu bug control; and boron with this application.
Fields were scouted three weeks later, and some minor frogeye leafspot and downy mildew development were noted. To ensure excellent yield potential, a follow-up aerial application of Priaxor fungicide was made.
Another key component to the McMichens’ high yields was timely harvest. Gramoxone was applied before harvest and the soybeans were harvested Sept. 8.
“The early-season soybeans were more profitable than corn,” Nick says. “My corn acreage will be limited next year. Early-season beans will take preference over corn, but commodity prices will eventually dictate what I plant.”
Auburn University College of Agriculture and Alabama Agricultural Experiment Station contributed information for this article.