When you’re the current world soybean yield record holder and the 2016 National Corn Growers Association Corn Yield winner with a 521-bushel-per-acre average, you might know a thing or two about farming. And Randy Dowdy sure does.
Growers from across the Midwest gathered to hear the Georgia corn and soybean yield champion’s expertise at the Ag PhD Field Day in Baltic, South Dakota last week. With organic matter less than 1 percent and a cation exchange capacity of four to seven in his sandy loam soil, Dowdy definitely has some tricks up his sleeve.
“We’re not farming in the land of Canaan or the land of the Garden of Eden, but God made it and we can work with it,” Dowdy said.
Dowdy fielded questions from the audience on several different farm management areas. Here is what he had to say:
Do you use manure?
Since poultry litter is available in Dowdy’s backyard, he does use it but not exclusively. Manure can be inconsistent in analysis and the application is not uniform. When you are striving for field uniformity, you can put manure out there and screw it all up, Dowdy said. He suggests only using manure as a luxury field item.
How do we make sure all the plants come up at same time?
“You want to make 100 bushel, 150 bushel then they need to come up at the same time,” Dowdy said. “That box has to be checked first. All the plants have to come up at the same time.”
To do that, Dowdy says you need to ensure:
- Consistent plant depth- Dowdy recommends 2 inches.
- Consistent moisture.
- Good seed soil content- Manage residue.
- Consistent down pressure.
- Slow down planting for consistency
How do you spread the risk?
For corn the planting window is around April 15 to May 27 – a six week period most growers don’t use to their advantage, Dowdy said.
“Why do we choose to plant everything in one week or less when we have six weeks to get it done?” Dowdy said. “Most of you are going to plant because your neighbors are planting or have the mentality ‘I want to plant and get it done.’”
Dowdy said instead growers need to spread the risk. He does not plant a seed of corn into the dirt until the soil temperature is 56 degrees Fahrenheit. He will take the first two to three weeks looking at the 2 inch soil temperature from morning lows until evening highs. Since the plant lives off seed energy until B3, Dowdy said there really isn’t a reason to plant sooner.
“Why would you want to burn up all that energy while it is in ground two to three weeks?” Dowdy said.
What are your recommendations for tissue sampling?
If the plant is 0 to 10 inches, take the whole plant. Above 12, take the first full developed leaves, and for post tassel and beyond take the leaves below and opposite from the ear. Dowdy says be consistent with sampling – same day each week, same time of day, stay in same part of field, and plot it out so you can see those numbers go up and down as the crop grows.
Dowdy’s real secret to success … it’s keeping track of the details.
“Here’s a guy who is really focused on keeping track of these things from year to year,” said Darren Hefty. “Just paying attention to some of these things is important.”
Hefty challenged the young people in the audience who want to come back to the farm to do the same.
“You can come with hard work, smarts, and keep track of all the little things,” Hefty said. “There’s no silver bullet. It’s called 20 hour days all through the year and using your brain power.”