Soil Regen is proud to share that co-founder and first-generation farmer, Russell Hedrick has submitted an entry of 459.51 bushels per acre to the North Carolina Corn Growers Association. The yield bests the current national yield record of 442 bushels per acre held by Francis Childs.
“The average corn yield for Catawba County is somewhere between 100 and 124 bushels an acre according to USDA NASS data,” Hedrick says, adding that his yield climb didn’t happen overnight.
“This all started five years ago when Richard Linton, the previous Dean of NC State University, challenged us to push our yields to see what was possible in our state, chasing 400-bushel corn,” he says. “It’s taken us all five years – we’ve seen some 400s on the yield monitor trying new techniques but seeing a field average over 400 has taken us five.”
Hedrick designs his plots in the fall of the previous season, planting a cover crop mix that would offer both nutrient availability, weed suppression and moisture conservation. In February, Hedrick was ready to pull soil samples.
The field of plots was zone tested and the samples were sent to Regen Ag Lab to have PLFA and Haney tests ran. The results gave Hedrick a real-time snapshot of the size and activity of the microbial community in his soils. Hedrick adds “Farmers really need to look at sampling their soils at different depths, deeper then what is currently recommended currently by most universities. Lance Gunderson, President and Co-Owner of Regen Ag Lab, along with Rick and Liz Haney, have spent a lot of time with farmers like myself to explain how nutrients work in the soil and how testing methods have evolved and how we understand them as farmers to make key management decisions.”
Prior to planting, Hedrick pulled additional cover crop biomass samples for Regen Ag Lab to run a nutrient analysis, noting that the test became obviously critical in his journey to reach 400-bushel corn about three years ago. Hedrick says that the carbon to nitrogen ratio, even within the residue has a lot to do with nutrient release and tie-up and knowing what nutrients are present doesn’t matter if they aren’t available.
The Haney and PLFA soil testing indicated the nutrients Hedrick needed to grow 425-bushel corn and, while the traditional soil tests indicated a lesser nutrient need, Hedrick says that knowing the “real” numbers needed is what allowed him to achieve 400+ bushel corn.
“A lot of the traditional tests are giving false reads and higher or lower nutrient availability numbers; we’ve seen it firsthand. We apply what a test calls for and then our plant tissue tests show deficient. The hot water extraction that Regen Ag Labs offers for some micronutrients and the Haney Soil Test extraction method gives us a lot better read and let’s us dial in what our yield goals are and what is needed to reach those goals. We’re pushing these crops and we have to have accurate numbers to work from,” Hedrick says. “For example, one of the traditional tests I used showed that I had enough Boron available, the hot water extracted Boron test showed we would fall short based upon our yield goal.”
Actual applied nutrients totaled 310 pounds of applied nitrogen, 140 pounds of phosphorus, 40 pounds of potassium and 100 pounds of sulfur. Hedrick also applied boron, zinc, molybdenum, nickel, cobalt, humic acid, fulvic acid, and sugars in a precision application.
Hedrick used a full-flex corn variety, planting a full-season 116-day variety, AgVenture 9916 and tested different populations throughout his farms, from 32,000 to the 45,900 plants per acre that achieved the record-breaking yield.
“I think a lot of the success of our farm has been from the farmers and friends across the country who have invested their time and knowledge with me. Our group of farmers share their information with each other to push each other to minimize failures, or as Rick Clark calls them – Learning Opportunities,” Hedrick says.
“We at Soil Regen are focused on implementing farming practices that aren’t solely focused on yield and are intent on return on investment. The field days, conferences, and webinars that we produce across the country allow us the opportunity to learn and share how others are changing the farming techniques and utilizing new technologies that aren’t in mainstream agriculture. I have focused on these avenues, especially soil health, and the yield has steadily followed. For any farmer, return on investment…dollars per acre rather than yield per acre…should be the goal. This year, my cost per acre were a little under $1000 and my net per acre on $8.50 corn was well over three grand an acre.”
To learn more about Hedrick’s road to 459-bushel per acre corn and the soil health journey that has paved, make plans to visit this year’s Big Soil Health Event, December 6-7, 2022 in Cedar Falls, Iowa.
About Soil Regen
We are a farmer first company focused on providing farmers, ranchers, and the food and agricultural community education, Regeneratively Grown grain, and Regenerative Verified products. Our farm to table consumer goods are grown using Regen Verified processes that validate healthier soils produce healthier foods. Each one of us rebels against the “farm the farmer” mentality and is dedicated to providing the resources farmers need to be profitable all the while improving the land. Learn more at agsoilregen.com.
Co-Owner, Soil Regen