After witnessing high-yield wheat fields in England, Miles Farm Supply officials recruited four English agronomists to boost wheat production in the western Kentucky, southern Indiana and Tennessee areas served by the company’s Opti-Crop crop management division.
The plan worked. In the late 1980s, when the English agronomists were first brought to the United States, Kentucky winter wheat yields of 35 to 40 bushels per acre were considered a good average. Today, the state’s winter wheat yield ranges from the upper 50s to the mid-60s, according to Ronan Cummins.
Cummins, a researcher with the Owensboro, Ky.-based Miles Farm Supply, notes that the yield increases required the efforts of Opti-Crop, university agronomy specialists, farm suppliers and growers. As another of the company’s English agronomists, Cummins has been promoting intensive no-till wheat management ideas for 7 years. Now he’s looking for similar yield increases in no-till corn and soybean fields, and he says the wheat field practices established by Opti-Crop point the way.
“We picked a group of innovative growers who wanted to do something different and were willing to take a risk,” he says. “They were willing to put tramlines in the field to control traffic and make five or six passes through a crop during the year. And toward the end of the season they were willing to spend a little money to apply a fungicide to protect their crop yield and quality.”
He credits the higher wheat yields to a combination of soil types, fertilizer choices, seed selection…