Editor’s note: This is Part I of a two-part series focusing on perennial national corn yield contest winner Randy Dowdy of south Georgia, his 2013 crop, and his plans for next year.

There are thousands of entries in the National Corn Growers Association Yield Contest each year, so there’s no sure thing when it comes placing among the top finishers. But south Georgia’s Randy Dowdy probably would be disappointed if he didn’t see a respectable finish for himself this year.

Despite some of the worst weather conditions he’s ever seen, he broke the 400-bushel barrier in 2013. It’s an achievement that’s extremely rare on a national level and non-existent – until this year – in the lower Southeastern United States.

Dowdy says he’s honored and thankful to have hit another plateau in growing corn. It’s especially a good accomplishment for Georgia, considering some of the poor soils in the state, he adds.

“It was really a shock to see that some of those yields were as high as they were,” says the Dixie, Ga., farmer. “It says something about the hybrid and its resilience. I knew the corn was going to be good, and I knew it was going to break 300 bushels, but I really didn’t think it would go as high as it did. I didn’t break 400 bushels once, but I broke it twice. When that happens, you start looking back at the year to see what was different.”

When reflecting on the year just finished, Dowdy says he started realizing how important good weather is to certain parts of corn grain fill. “With those earlier maturing varieties and earlier planting dates, we were much better off. The lesson learned for the future for the people I advise and consult with is if you’re going to be hell-bent on planting everything in a week to 10 days, you had better spread your risks across relative maturity and across hybrid selection.

“The variety that made me my best yields in 2011 and 2012 also made my worst yields this year. I didn’t do anything different, but I had some of it planted 10 days earlier, and it was fantastic. It was all about planting date and what stage of growth it was in during that stress period of low sunlight and high rainfall,” he says.

While Dowdy has always planted multiple hybrids over his acreage, he’ll take that philosophy to another level next year.

For more on Randy Dowdy’s operation, see Georgia yield champ is student of growing corn and Corn yield champ says challenge is to change.