Throughout the years, agriculture has garnered a long, proud history made up of challenges, incredible feats, and memorable accomplishments. There are quite a few ways to quantity these — we could look at historical records, analyze data, review new technology or even dig into financial benchmarks. But there are also more fun ways of examining how far ag has come, such as looking at the incredible outliers who have set new records and raised the bar just that much higher.
Whether it be an exceptionally tall horse, outrageously large tractor, or a jaw-dropping yield, evaluating our progress and milestones is a great way to appreciate what our industry is able to achieve when pushed to the max.
Notable harvests and farms
The highest yield record for corn was a whopping 616 bushels per acre. This was done by accomplished Virginia farmer David Hula, who participated in the National Corn Growers Association 2019 National Corn Yield Contest. More impressive yet, this wasn’t even his first time — Hula set the record on three other occasions.
While this is worthy of our admiration, we can also take a moment to appreciate the changing tides of corn yield over the years. The historic data not only shows us where we come from, but also promises some future improvements based on genetic potential and accumulated agronomy knowledge.
That increase records — both individual and based on trends — aren’t just anomalies. They are the adoption of new technologies and methodologies.
In fact, perhaps the greatest departure on record for yield trend was in 1906, when the nation’s corn crop was an astonishing 23 percent higher than what was expected.
That’s not to say corn has all the fun. Soybeans and wheat have also had their fair shake when it comes to signification records.
Randy Dowdy, an Illinois farmer, broke his own world record for soybean yield in 2019 with over 190 bushels per acre. Also worth the mention, the Bom Futuro Farm in Brazil’s Mato Grosso region, since its founding in 1982, has become the world’s largest soybean farm. It boasts 555,000 acres of the crop — not even including 170,000 acres of cotton and 260,000 acres of corn.
But even that doesn’t hold a candle to the single largest farm in the world. That honor goes to Mudanjiang City Mega Farm in Heilongjiang, China. This dairy milks 100,000 cows and spans 22,500,000 total acres — if you need some scale, that is 50 times larger than Europe’s largest operation.
When it comes to wheat records, no one has beaten the 1951 record from Alberta, Canada, where the largest single fenced sown field was 35,000 acres.
Beyond traditional commodity crops, the record for the world’s heaviest pumpkin was smashed (no pun intended) just this September. A grower in Tuscany, Italy, presented a gourd that weighed in at 2,702 pounds, 13.9 ounces.
A couple of years earlier, in 2018, Spain had the world’s heaviest bunch of grapes that tipped the scales at 22.31 pounds. We could go on and on about the size and scale of the globe’s most impressive produce, but I will leave it to you to scroll through this list of the world’s heaviest — it’s quite an interesting read!
There’s something everyone, from aspiring tots to retried farmers, loves about machinery. The bigger and louder, the more impressive it should seem. Believe it or not, the largest tractor known to the world aren’t any of the articulate giants on the market today. That honor goes to a custom named “Big Bud.”
Built in 1977 in Havre Montana, Big Bud 747 is a custom-built monstrosity of engineering with 1,100 hp behind the engine. Big Bud, which weighs over 135,000 pounds when fully ballasted, is capable of farming three acres per minute, and it towers 14 feet tall, 27 feet long and 25 feet wide. It’s powered by a Detroit Diesel 16V92T 16-cylinder, two-cycle engine. It was made by Northern Manufacturing Company for the Rossi Brothers, cotton famers in California, where it was used for over a decade.
Big Bud was then purchased by farmers in Big Sandy Montana who continued to use it until tire damage – irreparable due to the United Tire Company of Canada who made the custom tires went out of business – made it impossible. Afterwards it was on display at a few different museums over the years.
Thanks to collaboration with Titan International, Big Bud now has a new set of wheels and is on the move yet again!
According to Guinness
Here’s an assortment of fun farming facts and records from the famous Guinness World Records books:
- Big Jake was recorded as the tallest living horse in 2019. The 18-year-old Belgian gelding stands at 20 hands 2.75 inches without horseshoes. The Belgian, a long-time staple of American agriculture as it was once a premier pulling breed, is usually between 16 and 17 hands tall.
- The “tallest cow ever” is a Holstein named Blossom, which measured 74.8 inches from hoof to wither.
- And the shortest cow, named Manikyam, stands only 24.07 inches from hoof to withers.
- The oldest pig in the world, sadly was laid to rest in April 2021. “Baby Jane” lived to the ripe old age of 23 years and 77 days.
- “Chris,” a Merino ram in Australia, earned the title as “the wooliest sheep in the world” in 2015 — he had nearly 90 pounds of fleece sheared from him after being found after his feral stint.
- In a 1979 test, a White Leghorn hen laid 371 eggs in 364 days, setting the highest authenticated egg-laying record to date.
- 21 Iron Horse Tractors (manufactured by the British Anzani Engineering Company from 1939 to 1958) and two Trusty Tractors (manufactured by Tractors London) set the record for the most two-wheeled tractors plowing simultaneously on August 2011 at Wey Manor Farm in New Haw, Byfleet, Surrey, United Kingsom. In 2016, the record was set for the most normal tractors plowing at Hullavington Air Base in Wiltshire as part of the British Tractor challenge — 2,141 tractors were utilized!
- In 2019, the previous record for ears on a stalk of corn (16) was blown out of the water when a stalk of 29 ears was found growing in a New Jersey backyard — supposedly the result of a stray kernel of squirrel feed.
While some of these are just fun trivia and anomalies, celebrating these feats gives they all give us a moment to think about the many ag records yet to be broken — accidental or due to careful innovation and hard work.
Jaclyn Krymowski is a graduate of The Ohio State University with a major in animal industries and minor in agriculture communications. She is an enthusiastic “agvocate,” professional freelance writer, and blogs at the-herdbook.com.