MIDDLETOWN, Md. (AP) — The average number of bushels of corn per acre is between 180 and 250.
This year, Drew Haines of Middletown, Maryland yielded over 422 bushels of corn per acre, beating Maryland’s state corn yield record and winning first place in the National Corn Yield Contest in the no-till, non-irrigated corn category.
“It’s turned into an addiction,” he said.
The National Corn Yield Contest is a program of the National Corn Growers Association. Any NCGA member is eligible to apply for the contest, which has both national and state-level winners.
Haines said the success didn’t just happen. He’s been working on better understanding the soil and producing high yields for about 10 years.
“Of course with these high yields everybody only sees the good. They don’t see the bad that’s happened along the way, but we’ve had them,” he said.
Maintaining soil balance involves paying attention to aspects such as pH levels and micronutrients. Haines said corn is like people. It takes a while to get everything in check.
“If you don’t eat the right food, you don’t feel good,” he said.
Instead of applying fertilizer all at once, Haines applies it three times a year. He also does foliar feeding, where liquid fertilizer is applied to the leaves, five times a year. He’s even made his own foliar mixes.
Haines also works with his brother, Dale Haines, and his son, Dustin Haines.
“It’s kind of like a family affair,” he said. “It’s fun that we can all do this together.”
Haines also said he’s met with and learned from a lot of different people over the years.
“I think that’s where I’ve got a lot of my information and then I bring it back here and I do all kinds of different trials,” he said. “I really like doing it and I like helping other guys who are trying to achieve higher yields.’’
This isn’t the first time Haines has broken Maryland’s corn yield record and won in the corn yield contest.
Last year, Haines did both with 366 bushels per acre. And before that, he was a state winner in 2017, 2016 and 2015.
The corn Haines plants is a DEKALB variety. He works with Bryan Dillehay and Susan Miller of DEKALB to pick and plant the best variety and plan for next year.
“They come out when the corn’s growing. They look at it with me,” he said. “… It’s like a family relationship.”
The contest has been in existence since 1965, and receives about 8,000 entries a year, said Lindsay Thompson, executive director for the Maryland Grain Producers Association.
National winners are recognized at Commodity Classic, which will be held in San Antonio in February. Thompson said the recognition alone is a good incentive, but the contest means even more than that.
“I also think that it honestly pushes the farmers to figure out what works best and work toward continual improvement,” she said.