World corn yield record holder David Hula says strip-till is one of the best changes he's made on his operation in the last decade.
Hula spoke at the Brandt Agronomy Field Day in Aberdeen, Miss., in August. The Charles City, Va., farmer holds the all-time world corn yield record at 616 bushels, set in 2019 on an irrigated strip-till field.
Like many parts of the U.S., Virginia has been hot and dry this year. Hula told the Delta Farm Press that his farm with pivots is mostly irrigated corn this year, but he expects the dryland corners to be in the 40-50 bushel range this year. His home farm will fair better, as he's gotten a little more rain there, with an anticipated 100-200 bushel dryland range. He says matching populations and hybrids helped mitigate some of the heat.
"As far as making the best of it, first, you have to get your crop off to a good start," Hula says in the interview. "Then have good nutrition – fertilizer and micronutrients — that’s key. Have the plant balanced so it can defend. Don’t do anything that’s could negatively impact the structure of the plant like compaction. Have a good root system and do all you can to enhance that. That gives us our best defense."
Hula believes certain nutrients — like potassium (K) — mitigate stress. K helps the corn, cotton and soybeans transpire. He's also tried biologicals, including sugars and amino acids, to combat plant stress. While he's gotten mixed results from such products, Hula advises farmers give them a try on their own operations, as environmental conditions vary.
This year, he experimented with adding more Smart KB, a foliar liquid K and boron from Brandt, to his soybeans, which is showing good results so far in tissue sampling. Hula also is using some biologicals to enhance nitrogen in corn. Strip-till is also a profitable constant in his operation.
"I’m still huge into running the SoilWarrior for strip-tilling," Hula says. "That is, to me, one of the best things we’ve done as far as cultural changes in our operation over the last 5-10 years."
In what's been a difficult year for farmers, Hula says advice is to keep a positive attitude and be willing to try some new things — and potentially try them again if the weather or other factors don't cooperate.