Yield contest champs: How’d they do that again?

BALTIC, S.D. — Meet Eric Watson, a Guinness World Record holder for winter wheat yield.

Watson achieved a whopping 247 bushels per acre (16.79 metric tons per hectare), and was one of more than 20 national and international yield winners attending the Ag PhD field day on July 26 near Baltic.

The winners were celebrities in their own right, meeting the public on a small plot on which they’d directed care, and attracting crowds.

Kevin Kalb, 43, from Dubois, Ind., had a 150-acre cornfield that last year averaged over 340 bushels per acre. Within that, they have 10-acre parcels of land identified for the contests.

Kalb and his wife, Shawn, helped by their kids, have been national winners in the National Corn Growers Association contest nine times, including five first-place and four second-place. They compete in the 2A non-irrigated contest.

A seed corn dealer encouraged Kalb to get into the contest in 2007 and that “kind of hooked us on it,” Kalb says. “We’ve always grown good corn, but we didn’t know how we’d be against Iowa and Illinois. Lo and behold, the first year we were good enough to get second place in 2007.”

In addition to corn and soybeans, they raise turkeys apply turkey manure for fertility.

In 2017, the family had by far their best year, turning five entries over 350 bushels per acre. They had 150 acres that averaged more than 340 bushels per acre — on non-irrigated land in the river bottom. “Normally, we’re pretty happy if those two river bottoms make 250,” he says. He says the farm had an unusually cool August, which made it more competitive with northern Illinois or Iowa.

Kalb starts with a so-called “two-by-two-by-two” fertilizer — banding it with a planter on both sides of the row. “We feel that’s one of the biggest yield-influencers you can have,” he says. He pulls tissue samples when the crop hits 300 growing degree units. “If everything is growing at a normal pace, we try to ‘Y’ drop it,” he says, describing an applicator that puts supplemental fertilizer close to the roots of growing corn plants.