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Southern crop yields are up, up and away

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Improved varieties are given much of the credit for record-breaking crop yields, but good management remains a key ingredient.

South Georgia farmer Randy Dowdy, a grower who has captured the imagination of farmers throughout the region with his uncanny ability to produce record-breaking corn yields from soils that could be described as less than ideal.

While the numbers from the National Corn Growers Yield Contest were not official as of press time, the word is that three U.S. growers officially broke the 400-bushels-per-acre yield barrier in 2013, including Dowdy, who set a goal this year of 400 bushels per acre, got slammed by some of the worst weather conditions in decades, and then promptly met his goal. No problem.

But, as is most times the case, it wasn’t as easy as it may have looked. Randy is the first to extol the virtues of improved varieties, but he also cautions that it’s not the be-all and end-all when it comes to making high yields.

The same variety that made his best corn yields in 2011 and 2012 also made his worst yields this year. The difference, he says, was in the planting date and in the stage of growth during stressful periods of low sunlight and high rainfall.

Like any exceptional farmer, Dowdy closely observed the events of this past year and is already planning for 2014. While he has always planted multiple hybrids, he’ll take it to a whole new level next year. He’ll still attempt to plant all of his corn acreage over a week to 10-day period, but he’ll spread his risks more, over relative maturities and with different plant populations.

In other words, it still comes down to good management. These genetic wonders aren’t to the point to where they’ll grow by themselves, unaffected by poor weather conditions and/or neglect.

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