A lot of farming practices have changed as Jerauld County farmers have been trying to get the most out of their soil, and their crops, for the past 128 years. Pioneer farmers –fathers and grandfathers of many of today’s Jerauld County farmers—did their best with the open-pollinated varieties of corn.But when the hybrid varieties came in during the last half of the twentieth century the yields began to increase. Fields that once yielded “bumper crops” of 35 bushels to the acre began to produce 100 bushels around the county.
Genetics took corn to a whole new level over the past few decades as companies developed new varieties and “Roundup Ready” corn made plowing and cultivating unnecessary as the weeds died and the corn thrived. The arrival of no-till farming caused a giant leap forward in the quest for better yields and lower fuel costs.
But everything must fall correctly into place to reach the next plateau as farmers seek the elusive 200 bushel level. Ample moisture is, of course, the primary denominator. And Jerauld County has had enough moisture as the average 22″ per year precipitation mark was eclipsed in June and over 34″ of moisture has already been tallied. Corn fields have probably appreciated the moisture, but low spots in the fields have filled with water and may eventually cut the productivity of some fields.
Prior to the 210 bushel record the previous high was on dry land corn at the Spring Valley Colony, west/southwest of Wessington Springs, with 168 bushels per acre.
But will Jerauld County see 200 bushel corn in 2010? Most farmers are reluctant to predict such a lofty goal. But with the best growing conditions through the summer –which includes hot, muggy days and all of the moisture that it needs—it could happen.
The farmer with the appropriate fertilizer, a high seed/plant population and narrow rows in his field could bring a new yield record from any corner of the county.
But don’t look for a national yield record around here any time soon. A farmer in Iowa has that sewed up. In the national corn growing contest Francis Childs had a record 442 bushels of corn in a field he grew just for the contest. Wow.