Source: Gary Brock video
By Gary Brock
LONDON — Increasing grain yield is a matter of farmers being willing and able to do whatever is needed to increase their crop production.
That was the message from Randy Dowdy of Georgia during the recent Novus Ag Winter Crop Conference at Becks Hybrids near London in Madison County.
The southern Georgia farmer is the former world record holder for corn at 503 bushels per acre. Last year he set the new soybean record at 171 bushels per acre.
“My number one goal is to get you to think – to get you to think about your crop production,” he told the farmers at the meeting. “I want to think about what you do and how you do it.”
In talking about yield, he said, “There is zero reason that the highest yield should not come from the midwest. No reason. You’ve got better night-time temperatures, better daytime heat, better soil.”
He told the farmers that he asked the yield winner at that time for his advice. “He was getting 360 bushels an acre. Would you mind talking to me one time? I wanted to know what he was doing. He told me, you have to ask the right questions. My next seminar should be titled: How to ask the right questions.”
He said the next year “we did a few things differently and averaged 350 bushels, and broke 400 for the first time. In 2011, he went from 368 to 429 a bushel corn. He blew me out of the water. I said that’s awesome, and I asked him, what did you do different? He said, you have to ask me the right questions.”
Dowdy said in 2013 he went over 400 bushels an acre. “That year David broke a world record – 455 a bushel corn, a world record that had been standing for 7-8 years. In 2014, I make 503 bushels and broke his world record the next year. He made 476 bushels. He said, what did you do different? I said, David, you have to ask the right questions.”
He said they discussed fertilizer placement, and in 2015, he did 532 bushels an acre, “following what I said.”
Dowdy owns 400 acres and rents additional land to total about 2,000 acres. “I do almost all the planting and harvesting and spraying. We work, we are busy.”
Dowdy talked about prices per bushel and whether or not the farmers are making money. He said if the farmers are doing the calculations on paper and find that they are not making money, “why are you planting corn if you can’t make money?”
He said one solution is increasing yield, and his advice on increasing yield is irrigation.
“My words of wisdom are, instead of buying more ground, I would look at irrigation. If you don’t have water I understand. But if your farm does have a source of water, I don’t understand why you wouldn’t have irrigation. There is always a positive return on investment between water and without,” he said.
“I would invest in irrigation. Is there a problem with water in Ohio? Is there a lack of aquifer, river, streams.. to pump water out? I understand if you don’t have a water source. If you do have farms with source of water and don’t do it, I don’t understand.” He advised the investment, that would mean at least 50 bushels an acre more in production.
He said the bottom line is to reduce risk. “There are strategies you can use with irrigation. It isn’t just applying water; it is cooling the ground in the evening, applying nitrogen.”
Dowdy said he first purchased land in 2006 and thought he would pay for it by farming it. In 2007 he said he learned the value of irrigation and “making it rain.” The next year, corn was $8 a bushel because of the crisis in Russia and decided to grow corn. He went to the local Extension office and got some guidelines about growing corn. “I thought I would ask farmers around me. I found that farmers don’t always like to talk. Why is that? Do you know each other?”
He is a first-generation farmer. “Is that an advantage or a disadvantage? The advantage is that there are no pre-conceived notions and no one holding you back saying this is always the way it has been done. If that is the case, what have you changed in the last five years? What have you done that you haven’t always done? Farmers are creatures of habit, and we want to get you thinking about different things,” he pointed out.
What are the disadvantages? “It is nice having someone that can hold you back and warn about mistakes from experience,” Dowdy said.
Is there anything guaranteed about farming? he asked the farmers at the meeting. “Who here is sure next year you will make money and not lose? Do we farm on 50-50, 60-40? You have to be willing to succeed and fail both. You have to be competitive.”
He asked if there are any “4-4-44 farmers here? That is plant four weeks, harvest four weeks and take the other 44 weeks off. Can you be a 4-4-44 farmer and be driven? I don’t think so. If it is worth doing, it is worth doing right and on time.”
He said the difference between a good farmer and a great farmer is time and attention to detail. “My focus is on return on investment – making money.”
Regarding planting season, Dowdy said to wait until soil temperature is 56 degrees.”I don’t care when the neighbors are planting. I don’t want to plant when they are, just because they are planting. I have one chance to get it right. I have to live with that for the rest of the year. Are they (the other farmers planting early) going to pay my bills for me if I don’t make the money? Wait for 56 degree temperatures and a forecast that says that will be maintained.”
He said it is important to him to share what he knows.
He explained why: At a trade show once, he asked a long-time grain producer who was very successful to share what he knew, “and I even said I would give him all the credit. He said to me, ‘What’s in it for me?’ On that day, I vowed never to be like that. I promised that I would share what I knew and not keep this cloak of secrecy around me.”
Gary Brock is editor of Rural Life Today and can be reached at 937-556-5759 or on Twitter at GBrock4.