Ask the average person on the street where the world record for corn production resides and they would probably guess Iowa. Iowa is, after all, our largest producer of corn in the United States. The world record for corn production; however, rests firmly in Charles City on the farm of David Hula, Renwood Farms. 

Hula has owned the world record several times over the past few years. In 2003, Hula won his first National High Yield Contest with 322 bushels-per-acre, following up the next year with another win that yielded 339 bushels-per-acre. Another first-place finish in 2007 at 385 bushels demonstrated Hula’s dedication to push the limits of high-yield farming to produce steady growth rates year over year. With each progressive year as a contestant he honed his technique to produce numbers that finally reached any farmer’s ultimate goal, the world record in corn yield in 2013 with 454 bushels per acre. David is well known as the irrigated corn king.

Short lived, this record was surpassed in 2014 by Randy Dowdy of Valdosta, Ga., with 503 bushels. Never one to be outdone, Hula came back strong in the competition in 2015 to again set the world record at 542 bushels, which still holds today. In 2016 Hula placed second to Dowdy with 485 bushels-per-acre on his contest plot.

Often described as progressive, aggressive, driven and innovative, David spoke about his commitment to a high-yield program year after year with Delta Farm Press in 2015 after setting the world record saying, “I hate to use this word, but it all comes back to the fact that there are no silver bullets in growing high-yield corn. We’ve been working on this a long time, and I’ve made a lot of mistake over the years. We started out trying to grow more than 200 bushels, then 250, then 300, then 350 and now this.”

But that is all ancient history because in 2019, Hula cracked and shattered the 600 bushel per acre mark.  The new world record bar set by Hula is now 616 – 1,953 bushels per acre! Many might scoff at this outrageous number and say that this cornfield was babied and irrigated. The correct response to this is… sure it was! That yield is over three times the national average, but it is important to all of us nonetheless.

Why? Because it shows the potential yield found in every bag of seed corn. Each bag of corn has within its seeds a maximum potential yield. Once those seeds are removed from the bag, the only thing we can do is try not to penalize that potential too much. To maximize the yield of corn, many things have to be done precisely at the right time and in the right amount.

The ground must be prepared properly; it has to be in the exactly correct moisture level… not too wet and not too dry. Fertilizers have to be delivered to the plant when it is ready to take nutrients up. Too early and the fertilizer leaches away; too late and the corn loses the growth that should have happened during that time.

While we can irrigate the corn to precisely place the amount of water that is needed to maximize yield, we have no control over how many “degree days” the plants receive. Degree days are determined by the amount of sunlight and heat the plants are exposed to. Knowing the degree days can help accurately predict corn maturity.

In other words, every time the bar is raised in the National Corn Growing Contest, we benefit by having a more refined roadmap to elevating corn production across every corn field around the world. It is a great example of how developing knowledge and learning new techniques and technologies help maintain our nation’s prominence in feeding the world.

Upcoming Events

Jan. 15--VQA Steer and Heifer Sale, Tri State Livestock Market.

Jan. 15-17--Virginia Farm Show, Fishersville.

Jan. 17--Our Great Gator Giveaway Drawing, noon, at the VA Farm Show, Fishersville.

Jan. 20-- VQA Steer Take Up, Tri State Market.

Jan. 20--Farm Management Meeting, 6:30 p.m. at Farm Bureau Building, Marion. Topic is BQA Recertification.

Jan. 21--VFGC Winter Conference, The Meeting Place, Wytheville.

Jan. 22-- VQA Heifer Take Up, Tri State Market.

Jan. 27-30--VCE Annual Meeting, Hotel Roanoke.

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Dr. Andy Overbay is Smyth County’s agriculture and natural resources extension agent.

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