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CHARLES CITY, Va. — A Charles City farmer has topped his own corn yield record, taking home first prize in the National Corn Growers Association National Corn Yield Contest.

David Hula of Renwood Farms grew 542 bushels per acre to win the 53rd annual contest.

That’s a new world record, he said, but Hula doesn’t take much credit for the win.

“It’s clearly nothing I’ve done,” he said. “I’ve just been able to surround myself with good people and have been able to put the pieces of the puzzle together.”

Hula entered the No-till/Strip-till Irrigated category using Pioneer P1197AM seed. That meant he could irrigate when his fields went dry, which made a big difference, he said.

“I’m like anyone in agriculture; the good Lord has a lot to do with it. We oftentimes want to blame the weather, but it’s how we react to the weather that in turn affects your success and failures,” he said. “We were dry. That’s what I like because we were able to maximize sunlight.”

Hula has entered the contest for decades with family members. This year, his son Craig and brother Johnny Hula took home second and third place in the No-till/Strip-till Irrigated category.

David Hula said a winning yield starts with planning to match “the right hybrid to the right environment.”

Equipment is also key to Hula’s success, ensuring he gets a uniformly emerging and well-spaced crop, he said.

Renwood Farms follows a fertility program and treats its corn for insects and nematodes. Hula also treats his seed with Genesis Ag’s Invigor8 to give them a germination boost, he said.

“We do a pretty decent job on weed control so we’re not allowing our weeds to rob any yield,” said Hula, who does a pre- and post-emergence application.

By applying fertilizer throughout the growing season — preplant, in-furrow, side-dressing and late side-dressing — he keeps his crops healthy and can better manage nutrients entering the local watershed, he said.

“Because we’re in the Chesapeake Bay watershed, we do have certain protocols we have to follow, but we have established realistic yield goals,” he said. “If for some reason we realize that our yield goal is not going to be achieved, then we stop spending money, we stop fertilizing. That’s one good thing about fertilizing throughout the growing season.”

Hula and others in the National Corn Yield Contest bested the projected national average by more than 300 bushels per acre this year.

That’s important, said Rachel Orf, director of stewardship and sustainability for the National Corn Growers Association, because it promotes advances in the field.

“It shows the potential that these hybrids have and the potential that the growers can achieve … using less acres and getting higher yields to feed the world,” Orf said.

Starting with just 20 entrants 53 years ago, the contest has grown into a nationwide competition. There were more than 7,000 entries across the competition’s six categories this year, Orf said.

Between May 1 and July 31, contestants vied in 10-plus-acre plots, harvesting a minimum of 1.25 acres, she said. An approved supervisor documented yields and signed off that the contestants followed the contest rules, she added.

Improvements in seed varieties, advanced production techniques and innovative growing practices have helped farmers achieve ever-growing yields, said Orf, who attributed Hula’s record-breaking crop to his innovation.

“He’s willing to try new ways of growing, such as timing of nutrients,” she said. “He had a soil probe that measured the temperature of the soil, so he’s just trying different technologies and he’s an early adopter of different practices.”

“It allows friendly competition and just comparing yourself to your neighbors,” Hula said of the contest. “It’s a learning opportunity because at the end of the contest and when they start publishing the information, you have a chance to read about what the successful people have done and you can possibly incorporate that into one’s own successful operation.”

The 18 winners in the six categories averaged more than 386 bushels per acre. There is no overall contest winner.

“The contest provides farmers more than just an opportunity for friendly competition,” said Roger Zylstra, chairman of NCGA’s stewardship action team. “It generates data that impacts future production practices across the industry.”

“It is neat, especially from Virginia,” Hula said. “When you think of corn, you think of Iowa, Illinois and Indiana. You don’t think of Virginia.”

Renwood Farms is a 4,000-acre operation growing cereals for seed, including wheat, barley and oats, and soybeans and corn.

Visit www.ncga.com to learn more about the National Corn Growers Association.

Clara Vaughn is a freelance writer on Virginia’s Eastern Shore.Photo courtesy of David Hula

David Hula, right, of Renwood Farms in Charles City, Virginia, took home first prize in the National Corn Growers Association National Corn Yield Contest for his 542-bushels-per-acre yield. His son Craig Hula, left, and brother Johnny Hula, center, took home second and third place in the same category.

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