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Obsessed with high yields

Agriculture.com Staff 01/19/2007 @ 12:17pm

(Editor's note: Kip Cullers is the Missouri soybean grower and High Yield Team member who last year grew 139-bushel soybeans, the highest yield on record.)

Farming doesn't produce many celebrities, at least not on the order of a Pitt or a Manning. Kip Cullers comes about as close as we get.

He's the southwest Missouri farmer who gained instant fame last fall when the Missouri Soybean Association announced that he had broken the world soybean yield record with a verified yield of 139 bushels an acre. He followed that up a few weeks later with winning yields in two categories of the National Corn Growers yield contest. One of them, in the no-till irrigated category, measured 347 bushels an acre -- the highest yield in any category for the 2006 contest.

That puts Cullers on farming's "hot" list on the speaking circuit. In fact, he told us in a visit to his farm last week, he's turning down several calls weekly from farm groups wanting him to share some secrets about the incredible yields.

"I'm not a speaker, and why would I go to Minnesota and tell them how to raise soybeans?" he asks. "I'm not in it [yield contests] for the speaking engagements, I'm in it for nothing but the fun," he says, likening it to the steer shows that invigorate many beef producers.

Cullers visits the Agriculture Online message boards, where his yields have drawn praise, plus some scrutiny. "I know they talk about me on there, and some people don't believe my yields. I read it, none of it bothers me."

(Editor's note: Kip Cullers is the Missouri soybean grower and High Yield Team member who last year grew 139-bushel soybeans, the highest yield on record.)

There's one certainty about Cullers: He's obsessed with the challenge of pushing yields to the outer limits. "I think about it all the time," he says in describing what it will take to break the world record for corn yield. He has the numbers for that on the tip of his tongue: 442 bushels an acre, 60,000 plants an acre, one ear per plant, 16 rows around and 40 kernels per row. "I think in terms of kernels per acre," he says. "It takes over 38,000,000 kernels to make 442 bushels."

High yield soybeans weren't really on his radar screen, but his seed company agronomist gave him a challenge last winter: Be the first farmer in Missouri to grow 100-bushel beans. "I really didn't think it would be that interesting, but I planted some beans last spring with the idea that we would just see how they do," says Cullers.

While he says his high yield efforts are mostly about the fun, he does learn from it, and applies some of the lessons to his regular crops. "Some of those things help me get up to 280-bushel-an-acre corn yields under full pivots," he says to prove that his yields go beyond the plots.

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