This Missouri farmer has broken the world record, growing dryland soybeans that yielded 109.3 bushels per acre
Charlie Hinkebein of Chaffee, Missouri is great at growing soybeans. In 2008, his dryland soybeans yielded 109.3 bushels per acre, breaking a world record. Hinkebein is a 100-Bushel Soybean Club member, an exclusive group that includes two other farmers.
Hinkebein’s success boils down to elbow grease and several management practices that protect yield. Farmers who don’t treat soybeans as a high-value crop won’t capture the high yields, Hinkebein says.
“They don’t look at it as one of the big bread winners, and that’s what you’ve got to do,” says Hinkebein.
“And a lot of people don’t worry about scouting. They don’t worry about anything other than putting it in the ground and hoping it’s going to make a crop on down the road. They spray once or twice, and that’s about it.”
Hinkebein and his son-in-law farm 2,700 acres. Each year they grow 1,200 to 1,300 acres of soybeans.
The United States Department of Agriculture estimates Missouri soybeans averaged 29.5 bushels per acre in 2012. Hinkebein says their beans sat through “some days of 100 degree temperatures. And we still pulled out a 69 bushel average of beans.”
Soil conditions play into Hinkebein’s success. When Hinkebein started growing soybeans in 1993, he had his land precision graded.
“We’ve got every acre producing the same from one end of the field to the other.”
Hinkebein has built up his soil organic matter to four or five percent. Along with soybeans, wheat, and corn, he works milo into his rotations. Milo produces a lot of trash, which builds up organic matter, Hinkebein says.
“Also, we quit using the anhydrous. It was killing our earthworms. You’ve got to have something to keep that ground loosened up and bring it up to the top.”
The right genetics also play into Hinkebein’s monster yields. He and his family run test plots every year to see which varieties work best on their farm. Testing varieties before they’re released commercially gives him a three-year head start over other farmers.
Controlling insects and disease
Hinkebein says farmers in his area can really get hammered by insects and disease, and can lose 10 to 20 bushels per acre by not spraying.
“We start our fields out clean. We stay clean. We plant treated seed. Everything we put in the ground is treated two times for fungicide, two times for insecticide. We put N-Hibit on it when we put it in the ground.”
Hinkebein says he doesn’t overspray, but he sprays at the right time. Once the beans are up, a crop duster applies fungicide and insecticide. Hinkebein also gets the crop duster to apply six to eight pounds of sugar on each crop every year. He says the insects can’t digest the sugar, which sticks to the plants for a couple weeks longer than the pesticides.
“People laughed about it for a long time. But they started to see the effects. And I’ve got eight or 10 just in our area that started using it last year.”
Hinkebein scouts about three times a week. He typically gets up between 2:30 a.m. and 3 a.m., takes care of anything that needs to be done on the tractor, and then hunts for insects.
“If you get out there at three or four in the morning, the insects are working. They’re out there because they can’t take the heat.”
Cyst nematodes are a problem for some farmers, though products such as VOTiVO help. Hinkebein says rotations keep nematode numbers down on his farm.
Hinkebein also cut his seeding rates down to between 125,000 and 130,000 seeds per acre. Lower plant populations allow the beans to capture more sunlight, and make the crop less hospitable to Dectes stem borers, Hinkebein says.
“The thicker the foliage, the more chance for that bug to stay alive. It can’t take sunlight.”
Hinkebein isn’t afraid to try out new ideas on his farm.
“I don’t ask many questions of people. I try it myself, and if it don’t work, I can’t blame anyone else for it.” Hinkebein looked to his father, now deceased, for a lot of farming information. He also exchanges notes with a few other farmers.
Long-term view of agriculture
Hinkebein has future generations in mind when he’s taking care of his land. His own grandson is determined to be a farmer.
“I told my grandson, before he starts, he’s going to have a college education when he gets on the farm. He can work through it, but he needs the education.”
Farmers new to growing soybeans aren’t likely to see the yields Hinkebein pulls in right away. He points out it took him 20 years to get to the place he’s at now.
“It will take a while. You’ve got to get your ground built up. I mean, I can go three years without putting any fertilizer on, other than nitrogen for corn. And my ground’s built up high enough that I don’t need it.” †
Lisa Guenther is a field editor with Grainews based at Livelong, Sask.