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March 1, 2009

He’s done 150-bushel soybeans; 500-bushel corn is next

<i>Originally published in the Feb. 20, 2009, print edition.</i>

He didn’t like school. He was in the Future Farmers of America but not a gung-ho student. And he didn’t particularly think farming would be all that challenging since “I grew up farming,” Kip Cullers said.

Yet this 44-year-old Missouri “farm kid” set a world record for soybean yields in 2006 when his contest field produced 139 bushels per acre. The next year he broke his own record with a 154-bushel yield. Uncooperative spring weather in 2008 skidded his soybean contest field to 117 bushels per acre.

Now the Purdy, Mo., farmer has 500-bushel corn yields in his sights.

Walk, details key

When asked to list the top 10 things he does to achieve these remarkable yields, Cullers said, “I’ll just give you one. Pay close attention to details and walk your fields.”

Well, that sounds simple. But start with that walking business.

He’s in his fields every day, from emergence until harvest. When he’s walking his fields, he’s making notes. “Because I might not remember everything if I didn’t write it down.”

Where did his interest in blowing the lid off soybean and corn yields come from?

“I always need a pet project. In this farming business most of us think bigger is better. That certainly applies to crop yields and so far I haven’t run out of trying new ideas. The textbook just doesn’t have all the answers.”

He told farmers at a recent Pioneer Seed event in Windom that maximum yield starts disappearing as soon as you open that bag of seed. “There’s a whole barrage of things hitting on yield as soon as you put that seed in your planter,” said Cullers. “Then right away weather, insects, disease, uneven planting depths, imperfect seedbed conditions and other stuff keeps chipping away at yield. So my job is really pretty simple: Eliminate each and every stress I possibly can.”

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