North Carolina no-tiller Russell Hedrick made history with his 2022 harvest.

Soil Regen, which is co-owned by Hedrick of Hickory, N.C., issued a Facebook post saying Hedrick has turned in a harvest for the 2022 North Carolina Corn Growers Association yield contest totaling 459.51 bushels per acre for his no-till dryland plot. When that number is confirmed, it will shatter the previous dryland record of 442.14 bushels per acre set by Frances Childs in 2002. 

Childs, of Marshall County, Iowa, was the first grower to break 400 acres in a controlled contest, according to his obituary. He used deep tillage for back-to-back record-setting years in 2001 and 2002, claiming inspiration from zone tillage pioneer Ray Rawson. The current world record corn yield for all practices is 616.2 bushels per acre, set by Dave Hula of Charles City, Va., in 2019. Hula accomplished the feat in a category consisting of mulch-till, strip-till and min-till on irrigated land.

Hedrick is a first-generation farmer who's known for his innovative and unconventional approach to no-till. He first took the plunge into row crops in 2012 with 30 acres. From there, he began challenging conventional farming practices in a quest to improve his soils and his farmland. Today, he's grown his operation to 800 acres and beyond as co-founder of Soil Regen, Heritage Ground and mobile grain milling operation Regen Mills. In 2017, he won the North Carolina Corn Yield contest, becoming the first person to win in the state using regenerative practices.

Updated 11/16/22: 

In a press release issued by Soil Regen, Hedrick credits both soil and tissue testing with helping him achieve his record yield, and outlines his nutrient regime.

In particular, he identified the Haney and phospholipid fatty acid (PLFA) tests, administered by Regen Ag Lab of Pleasanton, Neb., as critical to understanding his soils. He also used biomass testing on his cover crops.

“A lot of the traditional tests are giving false reads and higher or lower nutrient availability numbers; we’ve seen it firsthand," Hedrick says. "We apply what a test calls for and then our plant tissue tests show deficient. The hot water extraction that Regen Ag Labs offers for some micronutrients and the Haney Soil Test extraction method gives us a lot better read and let’s us dial in what our yield goals are and what is needed to reach those goals. We’re pushing these crops and we have to have accurate numbers to work from. For example, one of the traditional tests I used showed that I had enough Boron available, the hot water extracted Boron test showed we would fall short based upon our yield goal.”

Based on the soil tests, Hedrick applied 310 pounds per acre of applied nitrogen, 140 pounds of phosphorus, 40 pounds of potassium and 100 pounds of sulfur. Hedrick also applied boron, zinc, molybdenum, nickel, cobalt, humic acid, fulvic acid, and sugars in a precision application.

Hedrick used a full-flex corn variety, planting a full-season 116-day variety, AgVenture 9916 and tested different populations throughout his farms, from 32,000 to the 45,900 plants per acre that achieved the record-breaking yield.

Hedrick will talk about his record-breaking methods at the 2023 National No-Tillage Conference during a workshop titled "How to Trim Fertilizer Costs Without Reducing Yields," hosted in partnership with Regen Ag Lab's Lance Gunderson, and a classroom session titled "Capturing High Yields with Regenerative Ag." Learn more and register for the sessions here.

Related content:

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Russell Hedrick on Boosting No-Till Profits with Custom Milling

Regenerative Farming Effects on Water Quality