Yield Contest Winners

This year’s yield contest winners recorded high yields, so it is time for us to record their secrets to success.

Article by Hannah Dast

Dryland No Till East – Winter Johnston; Dryland Tillage East – Harry Johnston – McConnellsburg, PA

With nearly double the average annual rainfall during this growing season, husband and wife duo Harry and Winter Johnston battled the weather to become winners in two of this year’s yield contest categories. Due to favorable test plot placement, the couple’s crop exceeded their expectations. “We were pleasantly surprised with the results,” Winter said.

Dryland No Till West – David Knoll – Platte, SD

When it comes to his contest crop, David Knoll said he happened to be “in the right place at the right time this year.” With more moisture in the 2018 growing season than in two average years, Knoll credited timely rains for his success. In years where his white milo crop exceeds the needs of his cow-calf to finish operation, Knoll seeks specialty outlets for the crop.

Dryland Tillage West  – Lee Pifer – Washington, KS

Lee Pifer and his wife, Sue Pifer, started growing sorghum as a way to provide for their hog operation. After 25 years, the couple ended their hog business but continued raising sorghum with the benefit of being near a local railway and a neighboring hog producer who needs sorghum to support his operation.”

Food Grade  – Mike Baker – Trenton, NE

This 5th generation southwest Nebraska farmer started growing sorghum when he realized the value it could have in rotation on his wheat, fallow, corn and soybean operation. Hundreds of hours on the phone and time on the United Sorghum Checkoff Program connections directory have helped Baker secure a market for his value-added, food-grade sorghum. Though Baker did not hit his personal yield goal this year, he is confident in his methods. “There’s only so much you can control,” Baker said, “and Mother Nature isn’t one of them.”

Irrigated No Till East – Jeffrey Barlieb – Stewartsville, NJ

Seasoned sorghum yield contestant Jeffrey Barlieb is consistently working to increase yield. “Going off of history, we try to better ourselves from year to year,” Barlieb said.  This year, Barlieb’s farm endured above average precipitation, and coupled with his land quality, ended with an above average yield of 183.89.

Irrigated No Till West  – Beckman Farms – Seldon, KS

In an area where irrigation water is only at 70 percent availability compared to what it was 10 years ago, sorghum was a likely solution for this farmer. Sorghum is not the largest acre crop on his farm, but Shane Beckman takes full advantage of this water-conserving crop. “We try to be very mindful of everything that goes into our crop,” Beckman said, “We try to be conservative but not short ourselves on yield.” This year was especially good, seeing as Beckman usually irrigates about 6-7 inches, and this year only required three.

Irrigated Tillage West – Michael Ball – Caldwell, ID

On his diversified farm in western Idaho, Michael Ball raises sorghum on about 30 acres as a specialty crop for two local bird farms. Unafraid to try new things, Ball was not intimidated by being one of the few sorghum producers in his area of Idaho when he started raising the crop about five years ago. Aside from timely rain and good nutrient management, Ball contributes this year’s contest win to one primary factor – luck.