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Hula regains familiar spot atop list at 532 bushels
By BRUCE HOTCHKISS
CHARLES CITY, Va. (Jan. 5, 2015) — The nation’s “Corn King” has his crown back. And how!
David Hula, a consistent winner over more than a decade, let the crown slip away in 2014 to a Georgia grower who topped 500 bushels an acre for the first time in the 51-year-old National Corn Growers annual yield contest.
But in 2015, Hula answered in exclamation points, establishing an all-time record for the contest with an astonishing yield of 532.0271 bushels per acre.
“He didn’t seem to be surprised by the yield,” said an NCGA official on hand for the harvest.
“He had done everything humanly possible to the crop since the seed went into the ground. It’s like he slept with the crop,” the official said.
The record setting entry came off a field on the family farm about a quarter of a mile from the James River from which Hula drew his irrigation water.
Many of Hula’s previous entries have come off that same field.
Hula, thinking back on the season, said several factors went into the production of the 500-bushel-plus yield.
That included, he said, tweaking the system, thicker plantings and adjusting the fertility program.
“We knew we had something when it came up.” Hula said. “The plants were so uniform.”
He had planted at 57,000 seeds per acre and harvested at 54,700.
“We started out right. ... We adjusted the planter” to guarantee a uniform placement of the seed.
Curiously, the crop got off to a late start. The cool, wet weather in the early spring kept him out of the fields until the first of May, Hula said. Normally, he has seed in the ground in April.
But the Pioneer variety he had selected responded well. He had tested the variety two years ago and was attracted by its response.
Was he surprised by the yield?
“A little bit,” he said, “but not in a huge way. We knew we had a good crop in the ground.”
Actually, during the harvest, the yield monitor on a couple of occasions hit 600.
“But we didn’t believe that,” Hula quickly said.
The NCGA credited improved seed varieties, advanced production techniques and innovative growing practices as a total 7,729 growers across the nation set a record for the average contest yield.
The 18 winners — first , second and third in six production categories — had verified yields averaging more than 386.4 bushels per acre, compared to the projected national average of 169.3 bushels per acre in 2015.
Additionally, a record five national-winning entries surpassed the 400-bushel-per-acre mark.
Hula established the new record competing in the No-Till Strip-Ttill Irrigated division using the Pioneer hybrid P1197AM. Craig Hula, David’s son, came in second with a yield of 485 bushels an acre. Craig planted DeKalb DKC64-89R1B.
In 2014, even though Hula logged another 400-plus bushels-an-acre year yield, the crown slipped away to Randy Dowdy, a Georgia grower who makes a career, and an accompanying consulting service, out of growing what he calls “big corn.”
Dowdy of Valadosta, Ga., topped 8,128 other growers in the 2014 corn yield contest with a certified yield of 503 bushels an acre.
Hula’s second place yield that year was 476 bushels an acre and was Hula’s highest yield in the NCGA annual contest to that point.
Dowdy returned to the contest in 2015 to place first in the Irrigated division with a yield of 486 bushels an acre.
Three members of the Dowdy family were also credited with national winning entries: Michelle Dowdy, first place in the Non-Irrigated division with a yield of 348 bushels an acre; Bridget Dowdy, second place in the Irrigated division with a yield of 477 bushels; and Dustin Dowdy, third place in the Irrigated division, with a yield of 444 bushes an acre.
Across the Mid-Atlantic, there was only one other national winner. Sam Santini of Stewartsville, N.J., was second in the Non-Irrigated division with a yield of 332 bushels.
Winners receive national recognition in publications such as the NCYC Corn Yield Guide, as well as cash trips or other awards from participating sponsoring seed, chemical and crop protection companies.
In New Orleans, during the 2016 Commodity Classic, winners will be honored during the NCGA Awards Banquet and the NCYC State Winners Breakfast.
The Hula farm, consists of about 4,400 acres, of which 2,000 are devoted to corn.
The “spread” stretches over James City, and Charles City counties benefited by its proximity to the James and Chickahominy rivers.
As of 2012 and already a three-time national corn-growing champion, Hula had been breaking the 300-bushel barrier on a regular basis since 2000.
His first harvest over the 400-bushel mark, was in 2011.
The Pioneer brand P1197 family is one of 33 different Pioneer brand product families that growers used to place in national and state categories in the 2015 NCGA yield contest.
Pioneer described the winning product, P1197AM, as “an integrated refuge product with above ground insect control that provides above average stalks and foliar disease resistance for a solid agronomic foundation.” It responds to intensive management on both high yield dryland and irrigated acres, Pioneer said.