Area farmer sets world record

Thursday, December 7, 2006

Kip Cullers never planned to set the world record soybean yield, but he strives to improve all of his agriculture yields each time he plants, waters or harvests a crop field.

"Working in agriculture, everyday is challenging," said Cullers. "Pushing yields to see how much your crops can do. I strive to top out my yields."

Cullers' agriculture career began around 25 years ago when, as a teenager, he started raising cattle near his hometown, of Purdy.

"This is just what I wanted to do all my life," said Cullers. "I've learned how to raise crops by trial and error. When it directly affects your pocketbook, you learn pretty fast."

In the mid-1980s, Cullers started K&K Farms with his former Purdy High School classmate, Kevin Keeling. Today, the two men raise corn, soybeans, green beans, spinach and other crops on around 5,000 acres of land located in Barry and Newton counties. The Purdy natives also own and operate Sarcoxie Nurseries.

A few years ago, while looking for a new agriculture challenge, Cullers learned about the National Corn Growers Association's corn yield contest and decided to try his hand at the competition.

"I decided to try the high yield corn contest because corn is so pretty growing," said Cullers. "It gets real tall and thick. There is nothing prettier then a field of corn."

Over the last two years, Cullers had 16 corn yield entries, one of which earned him the rank of second highest corn yield in the nation with a yield of 345.95 bushels of corn per acre.

After Cullers' success with corn, he was contacted by Steve Crowe, of Pioneer Hi-Bred International, Inc., who suggested Cullers try raising a record yield soybean crop.

"He said that they have never made 100 bushels with soybeans," said Cullers. "I told him I wasn't interested. Soybeans are too close to green beans, and there wouldn't be much of a challenge there."

Last May, when Cullers planted 40 acres of land in Newton County with soybeans, he still had no intention of entering the yield contest.

"It was an accident that we broke the world record," said Cullers. "I hadn't even planned to enter the contest, but the crop looked really good in July."

Cullers planted 300,000 soybeans per acre and achieved a final stand of 245,000 plants per acre, which is nearly double the average soybean stand.

As he tended to the soybean crop, Cullers adapted his green bean management techniques to the soybeans.

"We used an application of Headline fungicide and Warrior insecticide and began watering them like green beans, every day or every other day instead of once a week," said Cullers.

Cullers increased the crops' water to decrease pod abortion, which is the biggest challenge when producing a soybean crop.

"Soybeans abort around 70 percent of their blooms or pods, which we tried to keep from happening," said Cullers. "We worked to keep them cool in the heat of the day. A happy plant is a good plant."

Genetics also played a big role with the world record setting soybean yield, said Cullers. He used a Pioneer 94M80, which is a hybrid large seeded soybean.

At harvest, representatives of the Missouri Soybean Association journeyed to the 40-acre soybean plot near Stark City to verify Cullers' yield, which set the new world record at 139.39 bushels of soybeans per acre.

The national average soybean yield is around 43 bushels per acre.

Cullers credits his agriculture success to learning how to grow crops in the Barry County environment, which allows producers a long growing season, and his willingness to try new ideas.

With one world record under his belt, Cullers is quick to admit that he's up for another challenge.

"Soybeans don't have the genetic limiting factor of a lot of crops," said Cullers. "Soybeans have 240 to 360 blooms, and every bloom is a potential pod. A crop could yield 200 bushels of soybeans."

Cullers also plans to continue to increase his corn crop yields and plans to enter several more corn yield contests next year. His goal is to achieve a crop yield of 500 bushels of corn per acre.

Cullers lives in Purdy with his wife, Michelle, and sons, Namaan, 7, and Noah, 1.

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