By K. Sauer
If you were to drive down a particular gravel road in southeast Missouri, you wouldn’t know you were in a historic location. But if you stopped to talk to Charlie Hinkebein, it would no longer be a mystery.
In his 40 years of farming, Hinkebein has planted soybean field after soybean field. But few have meant as much as one particular field in 2008, because this one landed him a spot in one of agriculture’s most prestigious clubs—the 100 bushel club.
This fall, Hinkebein achieved record-setting yields with Asgrow® soybeans. His field of AG4903s yielded 109.3 bushels per acre in the Missouri Soybean Association’s yield contest--making him the second Missouri farmer and the third U.S. farmer on record to achieve soybean yields above 100 bushels per acre.
In all of his years of farming, Hinkebein dreamed of seeing 100-bushel soybeans but never thought he would.
“This is something that’s been unachievable for many years,” he said. “But it feels great. I’ve met my challenge, but I’ll challenge myself again.”
But here’s the most interesting part of Hinkebein’s win--he did it on non-irrigated land.
Producing more with Mother Nature alone
Most farmers plant their soybeans on non-irrigated acres, which means the only water the beans receive is what nature provides. When fields are irrigated, or given additional water, the farmer has more control over nature, and therefore can experience higher yields.
“The unique thing with Charlie’s performance is it was on a non-irrigated field, which is how the vast majority of soybeans are produced in the U.S.,” Jerry Devore, Monsanto Asgrow marketing manager, said. “I think it’s a proof point that Asgrow does deliver the genetics and tough agronomic package that will perform for farmers in the kind of environment they experience every year.”
The other Missouri farmer to achieve more than 100-bushel-per-acre soybeans did so on an irrigated field. While necessary in drier climates, irrigation is more expensive and uses more water than non-irrigated fields, a resource Monsanto is working to conserve.
What makes Hinkebein a winner?
When Hinkebein started farming 40 years ago, he was pleased with 35-40 bushels per acre. Today, most farmers in his area average 50-60 bushels, with a few starting to reach the 70-80 bushel range. And now he’s hit 100.
“Genetics have a lot to do with the varieties right now, and Monsanto’s been keeping up with genetics and technology, so yields have been increasing,” Hinkebein said.
But while he says genetics and Mother Nature play a large role in a farm’s success, Hinkebein thinks his determination to maintaining good plant health has played a big part as well. He works on soil fertility in the fall and the spring, and keeps his fields clean throughout the growing season. On this particular field in 2008, he used two applications of fungicide--something many U.S. farmers don’t do largely because of cost--and three applications of insecticide.
“The main thing you’ve got to do is keep your fields clean,” Hinkebein said. “Start out clean and watch for disease and insects. You can’t just drive by a field and look at them from a pickup truck. You’ve got to get out and walk your fields. There are a lot of things you can find when you’re out there looking.”
And this year as he walked his field of AG4903s, he liked what he saw.
“It was just beautiful,” Hinkebein said. “I’d never seen so many four-bean pods. The pods touched pods. I’ve never seen plants like that, and I wish I would have kept some stalks of them.”
Looking to the future
Both Hinkebein and Devore know 100-bushel soybeans are not the norm today, but they hope they will be in the future.
“One hundred-bushel yields are certainly an anomaly today,” Devore said. “But in the next few years, we could start to see these 100-bushel yields more often--and not just in special yield contest fields, but across broader acres.”
“We’re doing our part with the effort we’re putting into our genetics with marker-assisted breeding and new traits like Roundup Ready 2 Yield™,” he continued. “When you add this to the work our technology folks and university people are doing to develop better management systems, I think we’re going to start seeing farmers unlock the genetic potential that comes in a bag of Asgrow seed.”
Hinkebein sure hopes this is the case, so once he retires his son-in-law and grandson will be able to experience the same success he has had on his land. But for now, he’s enjoying being a member of an exclusive club of soybean growers—and making sure his fields are ready for another run in 2009.