Mabel corn farmer makes his mark in Corn Yield Contest

National Corn Yield Contestwritten by Jonathan Eisenthal

Despite a late start and below-normal temperatures for much of the growing season, Minnesota’s corn farmers still brought in the bushels. We see that success in this years National Corn Growers Association (NCGA) Corn Yield Contest.

Top yields among Minnesota entrants ranged from 211.643 bushels per acre using no-till cultivation up to 270.9354 on non-irrigated farm land.

The top three entrants in four different categories will receive recognition in the “Yield Pride” article, the official announcement of Corn Yield Contest (CYC) results in the February edition of Progressive Farmer magazine. This is the 50th year of NCGA’s Corn Yield Contest, according to Rachel Jungermann, who directs the program for NCGA. The Corn Yield Contest, which saw 8,129 entries across the country this year, was started to encourage farmers to try new techniques and seed varieties to increase the productivity of their farms.

“The contest also shows that farmers are adopting new, precision agriculture technologies,” Jungermann said. “Maybe most important, it’s also a friendly competition between your neighbor and yourself, or your community. A lot of farmers like to see how they are doing compared to their fellow farmers around them.”

“Nearly 271 bushels — that’s the best I’ve ever done, said David Swenson, who achieved Minnesota’s top yield in the non-irrigated category. “Last year we were at about 240 and the year before that, with the weather, it was about 220. So we’ve been climbing up here steadily.”

The Fillmore County corn farmer came up with a goal several years ago during a winter meeting: reach 300 bushels per acre. He was close this year despite “lower heat and that early frost,” Swenson said. “We had some light frost damage in the field and some dry weather in there too.”

Located near the town of Mabel, Swenson farms with his son Matt. Stanley, his 80-year-old father, still comes to help at the farm. An unusual feature of the Swensons’ operation is that they also have a plumbing business. David took it up at the invitation of an acquaintance doing public projects in the 1980s in the city of Winona. The steady income came in handy during the uncertain days of the late 1980s. When his dad retired, David moved the plumbing business back to the farm and now he and Matt are partners in both farming and plumbing.

Swenson worked with Pioneer seed dealers to get the right hybrids to make his run at the 300 bushel goal, and adopted precision ag methods to better understand his yields. This year’s bin buster was Pioneer PO533AM1 ™.

“We did some grid sampling and then we applied lime according to the grid sampling and phosphorus and potash the same way,” Swenson said. “And then we just started split applying nitrogen and a few little things that we’ve been trying each year.

“On the whole farm we’ve been trying these things out in a trial kind of thing,” Swenson continued. “We will side dress nitrogen at different rates to see how that does, in different places on the farm.”

Southeastern Minnesota clearly got the best — though far from ideal — growing conditions this past year. All but one top finisher farms in this corner of the state.

Check back tomorrow for a profile of Minnesota CYC winners in the irrigated, no-till/strip-till non-irrigated and no-till/strip-till irrigated categories. Click here for a sneak peek and to view all the Minnesota winners.

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