The winners of the National Wheat Foundation’s annual yield contest credit good weather and nutrients remaining from the previous crops for their successes.
Buhl, Idaho, farmer Rick Pearson placed first in the irrigated category with a yield of 211.59 bushels per acre, and Forest Grove, Ore., farmer Tom Duyck placed first in the dryland category with 191.66 bushels per acre.
Winners are selected by the percentage increase their yield exceeds the most recent 5-year county average as determined by USDA.
Pearson said he was “very surprised” to be a national winner.
“I’ve got really good soil,” he said. “And we had a really, really good spring.”
Pearson planted his wheat where he grew potatoes the year before. The spuds leave a lot of nutrients, he said.
He raised Syngenta soft white winter wheat variety SY Ovation.
Pearson primarily grows seed wheat. His field man, Robin English, with Anderson Trade Group, had encouraged him to enter the contest before. He placed third or fourth the first year he entered, and had a poor crop the following year, so he didn’t enter.
“Last year, I didn’t put in, and it was the first time I’d ever seen my monitor in my combine go over 200 bushels,” he said. “I thought, ‘Well, maybe I just need to keep putting in.’”
The spring was cool and wet, Pearson said, and weather never got too hot. He worried it was a little too cool, and noted that harvest was about two weeks late.
“As soon as I started cutting into the field, I knew it was a good yielding year,” he said.
It was Duyck’s first time entering the contest. He was surprised to be the top dryland farmer.
“I finally had a good field and looked like a very good crop,” he said. “I didn’t know I was going to get that high of a yield, probably at least 15 or 20 bushels more than I thought I was going to get.”
Duyck attributed the yield to high nutrient levels after previously planting green beans. He planted some of his best ground.
He planted Oregon State University soft white winter wheat Rosalyn.
Duyck is North Willamette Valley president of the Oregon Wheat Growers League board.
Duyck said he’ll probably enter again next year, depending on how things look in the spring. He’s anticipating a drier winter.
Pearson will likely enter again, too. He teased that his wife knew it was an opportunity to take a vacation, so that’s why he entered the contest. She filled out the paperwork, he said.
“To be fortunate enough to win best in the nation is a little overwhelming and a little hard to wrap your mind around,” he said. “I know there’s a lot of guys that had good grain in my area, probably just as good as mine.”
The national winners will be recognized during a reception at the 2020 Commodity Classic Feb. 27-29 in San Antonio, Texas.
The National Wheat Foundation is a nonprofit organization incorporated and headquartered in Washington, D.C., governed by a nine-member board of directors and managed by staff of the National Association of Wheat Growers, the foundation’s sole member.