Yield Contest

By Brandelyn Twellman

Flooding and excess moisture were common challenges faced by farmers participating in the Missouri Soybean Association’s yield contest in 2019. Despite the never-ending battle with Mother Nature and the constant adaptation required during the growing season, many high yields were posted across Missouri. The farmers who won the irrigated and non-irrigated categories presented yields of 96.93 and 92.53 bushels per acre, respectively.

“The results of Missouri’s annual soybean yield contest showcase the determination and perseverance of Missouri soybean farmers,” said Brooks Hurst, a soybean farmer from Tarkio, Missouri, and president of the Missouri Soybean Association. “We had a challenging season, but the numbers we saw were a result of great stewardship and attention to detail. The friendly competition this contest presents was impressive, as well. Thank you to all our participants, contest officials and partners who make this event possible every year.”

The contest’s top honors for non-irrigated beans went to Brian Steinhoff of Steinhoff Grain Farms LLC. He raised 92.53 bushels per acre beans in St. Charles County with Pioneer P37T09L. Steinhoff, the fourth generation to farm in his family, has a background rooted in the agricultural industry. He grew up on the family farm.

Top honors for non-irrigated beans went to Brian Steinhoff with 92.53 bu/ac.

After college, Steinhoff worked in industrial sales for ten years, knowing one day he’d like to come back to the farm. When his father started looking toward retirement, Steinhoff made the transition to the farm full time. He also started working as a seed sales representative for Pioneer, a role he still holds.

Today, Steinhoff raises corn, soybeans, wheat and toddlers on his farm. He
has grown and optimized the family operation with the help of his father during harvest and a full-time employee.

He was pleasantly surprised with his win in the non-irrigated portion of the yield contest. Like many farmers across the state, Steinhoff had several challenges to overcome this growing season.

“I’ve entered the contest three years, and this is the first time I’ve won,” he said. “I thought there would be better beans in the state. We had a lot of excess moisture here. I had about 85 percent of the ground I farm that had water on it from the river.”

He wasn’t able to plant all of his acres this year, which he thinks may have given him an advantage in the contest.

“It wasn’t under water where the soybean contest field was, so I had
time to take my time and enter it in the contest,” Steinhoff said. “I only had 40 percent of my farm ground planted, and I was planting up to the water. The rivers were high, so when we would get a rain, water would just pile up inside. So, before we even had the flood, we were flooding from the inside out.”

Although each growing season varies, Steinhoff has zeroed in on soybean production practices that maximize his yield potential, which benefits his operation in challenging years.

“A few years back, when corn prices were poor and beans were $10.00-plus, I really honed in on trying to raise my soybean yields because that was the cash crop then,” Steinhoff said. “In a river bottom, usually the focus is on corn because it’s so productive, but at that time the money was in beans. So,
I started doing a few different things then.”

He focuses on fertility through fertilizer requirements based on his yield goal. He also picks high-yielding varieties with good agronomics each year. Steinhoff utilizes seed treatment technology, which gives him confidence to plant early. Weed control is also a priority on his farm, along with managing disease and insects, especially near the river bottom.

Brian Steinhoff shared this shot of his view during soybean harvest. He says a focus on fertility and setting a yield goal helps him manage his crop throughout the growing season – especially during a challenging year.

“If I had to, I would most attribute this year’s high yield to a fungicide and insecticide application at the R3 growth stage,” Steinhoff said. “And, ILeVO® seed treatment. Usually in a year like this, we’d have sudden death. That plant would get infected after we planted it because it was raining so much. Usually in August that would compound and then that half of the field would be dead. I think ILeVO® seed treatment, fungicides and insecticides made the difference.”

He also used technology to his benefit, keeping detailed records and identifying the best areas of his field.

“I was able to utilize yield history maps and satellite imagery to hone in on
the best spots of the field,” Steinhoff explained. “Pioneer has an app you can use to see your field through the growing stages. They take pictures of that field, so, basically, when those beans started turning, I could see where the green spots were still.”

One advantage Steinhoff did have this year was an abundance of sunlight.

“Photosynthesis is really important, and we had plenty of sunlight this growing season,” he said. “Some summers are ugly for a couple weeks in the prime of growing season, and I think that hurts us more than we realize. We had plenty of sunlight this year.”

First place in the irrigated category went to Jerry Cox of Cox Farms. He and his son, Matthew, farm in Cape Girardeau County. Cox is proud to own and operate his grandfather’s land as the third generation to farm in his family.

Scouting and good drainage helped Jerry Cox reach his winning yield in 2019, despite getting nearly double the normal rainfall on his fields.

This year, he raised 96.93 bushels per acre with Pioneer P48A60X. This is
Cox’s second year winning the yield contest. Like Steinhoff, he was pleasantly surprised by the results.

“Two years ago when I won the contest, I had a higher yield,” Cox said. “With the type of weather we had this year, you just didn’t know what yields would look like across the state.”

One of the keys to his success — scouting.

“I am always out there looking at my crops, seeing if there’s anything
that needs to be tended to,” Cox said. “Sometimes you find things like diseases or insects, so you’ve got to be timely. Sometimes you find things you can’t even fix this year, but looking at your crops is the biggest thing.”

This ‘boots on the ground’ approach helps Cox overcome trials throughout the growing season.

“The biggest challenge this year was too much rain,” he said. “We had close to 40 inches of rain from April to August, which is about double what we would normally have. Fortunately, our soils drain off good. We were fortunate enough to have dry spells in between the rains to get things done.”

Like many farmers this year, Cox wishes he was able to get in the field sooner. He said the yield contest field was planted on May 28 this year, but ideally they would have been planting three or four weeks earlier.

With a past in the land leveling business, Cox has ensured his land is all precision leveled with a constant fall from one end of each field to the other. Cox most attributes this year’s yields to stewarding this flat land and his fertility efforts, both adding a unique twist to his farm.

“When it comes to what field you enter in the contest, you know where your best ground is and where you’ll get the best yields,” he said. “But, I use the same practices on just about all my fields, scouting and using fungicides if we need to. We use chicken litter for most of our fertility rather than commercial fertilizer.”

Jerry Cox’s 96.93 bu/ac irrigated soybeans grown in Cape Girardeau County took the top spot in the irrigated contest this year.

Cox said chicken litter has brought several benefits to his operation.

“Not only do you get your major nutrients like potassium and phosphorus, but you also get micronutrients, and it seems like you can build your soil up easier with chicken litter than you can commercial fertilizer,” he said.

He also works to manage furrow irrigation on their farm.

“We’ve irrigated since the late 70s and early 80s,” Cox said. “We plant on ridges so we can run water down the furrow, but we would probably do that anyway because that helps get the crop up off the ground, especially in a year like this when we have a lot of rain. Every area has different ways of doing things, and that’s just the normal way of doing it in our area because of our land and the access we have to water.”

To keep his operation up to date and consistently improving, Cox said he seeks out learning opportunities in the off season. These range from meetings hosted by MU Extension, Missouri Soybean grower events and seed company research reports and conferences. He also utilizes the yield contest to try new methods and practices on his farm.

“I didn’t try too many new things this year, but in the yield contest, I think it’s always good to take a small acreage and try different things on it,” Cox said. “A lot of people think you spend a lot of money to win the yield contest, but it’s not that. It’s what you learn from it that you might apply to all your acres. Even when things I try don’t work, I think you learn more from your mistakes and your failures sometimes.”

The Missouri Soybean Association’s yield contest is made possible by generous contributions from the Missouri Soybean Merchandising Council and soybean checkoff, Beck’s Hybrids, Baker Implement Company, Missouri Crop Improvement Association, Sydenstricker John Deere, Asgrow, Pioneer, ProHarvest – Resor Seeds, BASF, Nutrien Ag Solutions, Corteva, Stratton Seed Company, FMC, MFA Incorporated and MFA Oil.

Harvest at Steinhoff Grain Farms LLC.

Thanks to the partnership of the Missouri Soybean Merchandising Council and industry partners, prizes were awarded to statewide winners, including a trip to the 2020 Commodity Classic in San Antonio, Texas and gift cards to Cabela’s and for biodiesel. District winners in each category also received their choice of $750 in biodiesel or in Cabela’s gift cards.

There was not a conventional till winner for district 5, as no entries met all requirements for that category in the 2019 competition.

Participants in the Missouri Soybean Yield Contest were required to enter their fields into the competition prior to harvest. The 2019 entry deadline was extended to September 30, 2019.

At harvest, participants were required to have a designated judge verify their yield results for the competition and to submit their verified results.

Contest rules are posted online at mosoy. org. Details for the Missouri Soybean Association’s 2021 Yield Contest will be posted online at mosoy.org and announced in this magazine.

Find the rest of the issue here.