“Basically, I am getting some good rotation between crops because I plant a legume and then a cover crop after the corn. I do deep tillage in the fall and in the spring. Part of this tillage is to help with moisture retention and to remove compaction, but it also helps to break down the litter.”

The field that produced Dowdy’s highest corn yields this year once was rolling terrain and was in pasture for several years.

“When I took it out of pasture, everyone said it was the most conservation-friendly crop possible, and that it was helping to hold the land together.

“Frankly, all the neighbors thought it was foolish for me to farm this land due to the terrain challenges. After the first year of farming, I thought they were right, but I didn’t have irrigation on it, and that made all the difference. If God made it, I believe I can work with it.”

While Dowdy admittedly farms on a smaller scale than some, he says smaller farmers have to make every acre count, and to do that, you have to make high yields.

For fertility, he pulls GPS grid samples. “I started doing variable-rate fertilization, and in the last two years, I’ve moved to 1-acre grid samples. It gives me a better picture of what’s out there.

“I pull tissue samples several times during the year to verify that my fertilizer is actually available to the plant.

“Also, I pull samples based on the reproductive stages of the plant. If you see that you have a deficiency, it’s already costing you yield. If you see it visually or through a tissue sample, it’s already too late.”

It’s also important, says Dowdy, to pay attention to minor elements. “Probably the biggest weakness we have in corn production is the lack of research on minor elements and accurate fertility recommendations.

“The levels being recommended by all of the labs are insufficient, in my opinion. It’s based on research from the 1940s and 1950s, when improved varieties were not being planted and irrigation wasn’t available.

“We’ve come a long way with new corn hyrids, but we still depend on old research. Global populations are increasing significantly, and to feed these additional people will require greater yields. We need research at the university level to advise farmers on current hybrids, fertility and new technology.

“We’re using 21st century irrigation, hybrids, and other practices to remove yield-limiting production variables. Insufficient fertility should not be one of those variables.”

Dowdy says his corn weed control is “nothing special,” with timing being the most important factor.

“I strip-till, so I chemically burn down a cover crop. I make a herbicide application a couple of days after planting and use irrigation to incorporate those chemicals. Then, I make another herbicide application two to three weeks postemergence.

“I constantly monitor for weed flushes, and I’m aggressive whenever that happens. Weed control is huge in corn production up to a certain stage. Once you get to about 45 days, shading will be your best friend.”

All of Dowdy’s irrigation sources are underground, and he’s pumping from wells. All nozzles are drops with rotators to help minimize erosion. He has a system that can monitor his center pivots through a computer or through his cell phone.