This year at University of Illinois' Agronomy Day, Emerson Nafziger, an Extension crop specialist, showcased a plot of soybeans.
Nafziger had one goal with this particular plot. His aim was to replicate Missouri farmer Kip Cullers' record-breaking soybean yield of 154 bushels per acre.
Earlier this week, I ran into Nafziger at U of I. He'd just harvested and tabulated the results of his replication experiment. Nafziger grew two plots: irrigated and not irrigated. The irrigated plot averaged 66.3 bushels per acre, while the non-irrigated plot produced 59.1 bushels.
Within the two plots, Nafziger applied a combination of nitrogen, fungicide, micronutrients, insecticide and a stem shortener. Both plots used the same variety as Cullers, Pioneer's 94M80.
"I don't know what else I could have done to reach 70, 80, 90 or even 100 bushels," Nafziger says.
At the end of the day, Nafziger expects two variables may have impacted his experiment: poultry litter and soil type. "I figure there are a lot of people that think poultry litter is the key," Nafziger adds.
However, Nafziger thinks soil type played a bigger role. Nafziger says Culler's farm in southwestern Missouri has a unique mixture of highly-weathered red soil, which is better at taking large amounts of irrigation water.
Nafziger thinks the irrigation water may have made the difference. The research plot in Champaign didn't take a lot of water. In fact, Nafziger didn't begin irrigating until August.
Nafziger says he'll run the study again next year with a few minor changes. Stay tuned to see if anyone can approach Cullers' record.