How one farmer achieved world-record soybean yields

image001Dowdy at a recent press conference concerning his 171 bu. per acre soybean achievement. Photo by Sonja Begemann

Georgia farmer Randy Dowdy gained a new title last week. In addition to being a former world record winner for corn yield, last week he won highest soybean yield on record with a 171 bu. average.

In Georgia, soybean yield typically tops out at 80 bu. per acre, but three years ago Dowdy started on a mission reach 100 bu. per acre and after hitting it the first year wanted to see “how high they’d go.”

“[This year] we saw as high as 227 bushels per acre,” Dowdy says. He practiced careful management and made sure his soybeans never saw stress to achieve his record yield.

The work started before his seeds hit the ground. “We pulled soil samples preseason, looked at our goals and put down the recommended amount,” he says.

In addition to the standard N-P-K fertilizers he added micronutrients to maximize what the plant could take up and use. He started the season by applying poultry litter, planted cover crops [after they were killed, the nutrients in the residue mineralized to be used by the soybeans] and put out potash and other essential macro and micro nutrients preplant. Throughout the season he also pulled tissue samples to make sure the plants stayed within a comfortable range and applied nutrients throughout the season through fertigation or foliar application as needed.

Dowdy plants as early as he can and uses 15” row spacing and 130,000 to 150,000 plants per acre. In year one he used 30” row spacing but after learning he could gain 7 bu. per acre by switching to narrower rows he quickly made the switch.

Throughout the season he carefully managed environmental stress applying herbicides, insecticides and fungicides as needed. “One of the biggest stress times we saw was after spraying herbicide [post application],” Dowdy says. “We applied a fungicide as it [soybean crop] started to recover.”

Throughout the season he used irrigation to help alleviate stress from the extreme heat that often plagues Georgia. He says he used what he’s learned in corn and applied it to irrigating soybeans and found running pivot irrigation at night was the most beneficial method.

All and all he is excited about the accomplishment and grateful for everyone involved. “This has been a collaborative effort,” Dowdy says. He worked closely with fertilizer, chemical, seed and other input providers to minimize stress and maximize yield on each acre.

What are the highest yields you’ve seen in your area? Do you think 171 bu. per acre is attainable in a cost-efficient way?

By Sonja Begemann September 13, 2016 | 7:13 am EDT