Illinois farmer Greg McClure grew up next to the founders of AgriGold and his family has been planting their genetics for more than a half century. After years of being unsatisfied with soybean yields that reached a maximum of 72 bushels per acre (bpa), he decided it was time to push his crops to a higher level.
In 2017, McClure and his son, Cameron, entered the Illinois Soybean Association’s Yield Challenge with beans that exceeded 100 bpa. Since then, they’ve placed in the top three dryland yields and won the irrigated soybean category for two years in a row with 110 bpa.
So how does a grower break through yield barriers in such a massive way? McClure won’t divulge the recipe for his higher yields, but he does share strategies to help you create your own.
Q. What were your key strategies for breaking through yield barriers?
First, we started really paying attention to the details. We researched genetics, studied plant structures and developed relationships with mentors and experts who were taking their yields to the next level.
Next, we upgraded our technology. Our planter has been upgraded each of the last three years, and this year we bought our own sprayer to apply fungicide, insecticide and nutrients more timely to the plants needs based on our tissue test data from this season as well as past seasons. We tissue sample to anticipate stress and other issues to try to meet the needs of each plant.
Q. What genetics do you seek out to achieve higher yields?
Every field and soil type on our farm are different so we try to find the best variety for each environment. Overall, we look for genetics that are shorter in stature in order to closely stack nodes with the propensity to flex or create laterals. They also must handle some stress and different disease pressures.
Q. Do you use any digital tools to influence decisions?
The past couple of years we have used Advantage Acre’s timeline feature, which helped us make decisions based on forecasts and facts, not guesswork. It helped us determine when to plant as well as what maturities to plant.
Q. What are your top three tips for others who want to pursue higher yields?
Seek advice from those who have accomplished what you’re looking to do. Be willing to try new things on a small scale in environments where you can evaluate their impact on yields. Understand that only you can figure out what works for your farm and soil types.