Producing award winning grain crops is nothing new for Charles City, Va., grower David Hula, but winning back-to-back-to back National titles is a big honor for the Virginia farming family.

This year Hula won first place in the National Corn Growers Association No-till/Strip-till category with a yield of 384.36 bushels per acre.

Such yields are only a pipedream for most corn growers, but for David Hula it was a step backwards from his record breaking 429 bushels, which won the same category in 2011.

Hula farms grain crops and runs a seed business from a number of farms, including historic Renwood Farms, located along the James River, not too far downstream from Richmond.

His father, Stanley Hula, started the long string of growing award winning corn and soybean crops back when brothers David and Johnny were just getting started in farming.

Hula says there is no magic bullet for growing high yielding grain crops. “It’s a system that starts when you open the bag of corn and ends when you put it in the bin. We use starter fertilizers and we time application of these materials when the plant needs them the most,” he says.

(For a detailed look at David Hula’s production practices, click here).

The Virginia farming family has to be careful how they use nutrients and pesticides. They farm near the Chesapeake Bay, which is in the public spotlight because of an ongoing struggle on how to best cleanup the Bay.

The big difference between the 2012 crop and his record breaking 2011 crop, Hula says, is the amount of sunlight. In 2011, it seems we got rain at night and also at key times. “Our crops are in an irrigated situation, so we don’t have to worry so much about the amount of moisture we get, but when we get it is a big concern,” he says.

In 2010, the year was much like 2012. Hula also won a National award with that crop, producing 368.4 bushels per acre.

Considering his entry each year is in competition with 7,000-8,000 corn growers across the country, winning so many national awards is a phenomenal accomplishment, regardless of where he farms.

However, producing record crops in Virginia, where the state average is less than a third, sometimes a fourth of his record yields, is a real success story.

Hula has now won six national titles. He says he doesn’t plan to make any radical changes to his system, though he does tweak it a bit from year to year. “Sometimes something as simple as adding sugar can give you a yield boost. “What we want to do with every part of our growing system is to pack as much energy as we can into the kernel,” he says.

Hula’s brother Johnny is another award winning member of the Hula family. He has won the Virginia yield championship for corn and soybeans multiple times, as has his brother. In 2007, Johnny Hula finished second in the national contest — to his brother David.

(And winning state and national farming awards is not all the family does. Over the years Stanley Hula has taken his passion for collecting antique tractors and farm equipment and put it together in a museum. For a look at that venture, see Virginia farm museum testament to agriculture).

Though winning championships is a goal with each crop they plant, the real goal is to be successful in their overall farming operation. With grain prices good and optimism high, betting on the Hula’s to produce both winning and profitable crops in 2013 is a safe bet.

rroberson@farmpress.com