Among 6,882 entries in the 2023 National Corn Growers Association (NCGA) NCGA annual yield contest from 3,824 growers in 46 states, a father-and-son team from Charles City, Va., captured the top two rankings with yields of 590 and 623 bushels per acre. One entry was no-tilled while the second was strip-tilled.

A long-time national corn yield champion, David Hula set the all-time corn yield record in 2023 with an amazing 623.8439 bushels per acre of strip-tilled irrigated corn, the only grower to reach the 600-bushel mark on 3 different occasions. This is the 12th time Hula has captured the national corn yield title and the 5th time he’s set the world corn yield record.

In an effort to not be out done by his dad, Craig Hula harvested 590.0198 per acre to top the no-till irrigated class.


Slow to adopt new hybrids in high-yielding environments, David Hula says a new class of corn genetics is outperforming the previous classes, as demonstrated with his 623 bushel per acre world record yield in 2023.

The Hulas say a new class of corn genetics is dramatically pushing up yields, as was the case with David’s 114-day Pioneer P1483 hybrid that is designed for the dry grind ethanol market. When opening a bag of seed corn at planting time, the Hulas recognize the potential for high yield is as big as it is going to be at any time during the growing season. From there on, the father-and-son team analyzes regular plant tissue test results, moisture probe data and weather forecasts to determine if it make sense to continue pushing each corn field for top yields. Striving for a yield of 10 bushels for every 1,000 planted seeds, David Hula went with a 48,700 per acre seed corn population in 30-inch rows on May 5. 

David Hula knows it takes high fertility to turn out award-winning yields. His  fertility program started with using an ETS SoilWarrior rig to deep band nitrogen (N), phosphorus (P), potassium (K) , sulfur, zinc and a phosphate uptake enhancer in the strip-till berms. 

At planting and during the growing season, he applied a total of 575 pounds of N, 156 pounds of P phosphorus, 480 pounds of K, 12 pounds of boron and 80 pounds of sulfur per acre along with several biological products.

Poured on the Fertilizer, Water

On April 10, Craig Hula planted Pioneer P1081 at a population of 52,000 per acre in 30-inch rows. Based on 1-acre grid soil analysis, weekly tissue testing and yield goals, a deep-placed starter was applied with the planter. It included N, P nitrogen, phosphorus, zinc, boron, sulfur, nutrient enhancers and several biological products.

With his top no-till yield, Craig Hula applied ½-inch of water 16 times during the growing season. 

60-Year-Old Tradition

In the 2023 NCGA yield contest sponsored by BASF, John Deere and Pioneer, growers planted 843 corn hybrids from 53 companies.

Each of the no-till, reduced tillage and conventional tillage categories included 3-4 geographic, non-irrigated and dryland classes. For each tillage category, one class included entries from 7 Corn Belt states (Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Minnesota, Missouri, Ohio and Wisconsin), while a second class represented entries from 39 other states. The all-encompassing reduced tillage category included strip-till, minimum tillage, mulch tillage and ridge-till entries, so the majority of these entries likely were not strip-tilled. Six states had no entries from corn growers.

Comparing No-Till, Reduced Tillage, Conventional Tillage

Here’s a rundown of the 2023 top corn yields in 10 tillage system and irrigation-related categories.

  • No-till irrigated in 46 states: 590.0198 bushels per acre. (This category represents entries in both the 7 Corn Belt states and the remaining 39 states that had entries.)
  • No-till non-irrigated in 7 Corn Belt states: 399.7812 bushels per acre.
  • No-till non-irrigated in 39 states: 337.3216 bushels per acre.

Comment: Irrigating no-till corn fields boosted yields by as much as 253-bushels per acre.

  • Strip-till, minimum-tillage, mulch tillage or ridge-till irrigated in 39 states: 623.8439 bushels per acre.
  • Strip-till, minimum-tillage, mulch tillage or ridge-till irrigated in 7 Corn Belt states: 375.6769 bushels per acre.
  • Strip-till, minimum-tillage, mulch tillage or ridge-till non-irrigated in 39 states: 342.4012 bushels per acre.
  • Strip-till, minimum-tillage, mulch tillage, ridge-till non-irrigated in 7 Corn Belt states: 363.1221 bushels per acre.

Comment: In what turned out to be a surprise, non-irrigated reduced tillage entries averaged 21 bushels per acre more corn than irrigated reduced tillage fields.

  • Conventional tillage irrigated in 7 Corn Belt states: 375.6769 bushels per acre.
  • Conventional tillage non-irrigated in 39 states: 396.1239 bushels per acre.
  • Conventional tillage non-irrigated in 7 major Corn Belt states: 425.8619 bushels per acre.

Comment: Non-irrigated reduced tillage entries outperformed irrigated entries by 50 bushels per acre.

Strip-Tillers, No-Tillers Take Nitrogen Efficiency Honors

In a nitrogen (N) usage class offered for the first time in the 2023 NCGA yield contest, the top performance honors went to 3 strip-tillers and no-tillers. Sponsored by Verdesian, entries from this trio of growers were close for yield, ranging from 307-312 bushels per acre. To enter this class, growers had to apply less than 180 pounds of N per acre.

When it came to determining N efficiency, the grower with the third highest yield came out on top. He only needed 0.47 pounds of N for each bushel of strip-tilled corn.

0.57 Pounds of Nitrogen. First place went to Nick Preissler of Aurora, Neb., with a yield of 312.9688 bushels from a strip-tilled corn-after-corn field that received 14 inches of irrigated water during the growing season. His total application of 178.45 pounds of 32% liquid N and Thio-Sul resulted in needing only 0.57 pounds of N for each bushel of corn. When building strips in the spring, he applied ProSZ (12-39-0-0.52 zinc) in-furrow followed by knifing in a pre-plant flat rate of 160 pounds of 32% N per acre. Incidentally, his contest field with a 32,500 per acre planting population was treated no differently than the farm’s entire corn acreage.

With government N restrictions likely on the horizon, Preissler’s goal is to cut traditional university N recommendations by 50%. He’s already proven this is doable with the right environment and proper management.

0.53 Pounds of Nitrogen. Second place in terms of yield went to Terry Vissing of Marysville, Ind., with 308.8313 bushels per acre from a long-term dryland no-tilled field. He applied 165 pounds per acre of N, which worked out to 0.53 pounds of N for each bushel of corn.

The Midwest Crop Consulting partner believes in no-tilling soybeans first and waiting until mid-May to no-till corn when growing conditions are better. Seeding 34,000 plants per acre in 30-inch rows, his goal is to spoon-feed the corn, rather than the soil.

 With the planter, Vissing combined 28% N with 5 gallons of 9-24-3 along with Capture insecticide from FMC Corporation and several micronutrients in a 2 by 2-inch band. Based on soil test results, a pair of Y-Drop nozzle applications of N, micronutrients, humic acid and sugar were made at V5 and V10 growth stages.

0.47 Pounds of Nitrogen. Third place yield honors were earned by Jay Reiners of Juniata, Neb., with 307.5116 bushels per acre from an irrigated strip-tilled corn-on-corn field. He applied 145 pounds per acre of N, which led to needing only 0.47 pounds of N for each bushel of corn. With a plant population of 32,000 per acre in 30-inch rows, Reiners says this fertility program is the same that is used across all his corn acres.

He starts with 20 gallons of 32% liquid N applied with a strip freshener prior to planting. During the growing season, Y-Drop nozzles were used to apply 20-25 gallons of 32% N around the V10 to V12 stage of growth. 

While placings in this N management class were ranked by yield, Reiners’ third place finish actually required the least amount of N by as much as 0.10 pounds to produce a bushel of corn when compared to the other 2 top-performing growers.

Nitrogen Not Out of Whack. By comparison, data from the 2024 No-Till Farmer Benchmark study indicates 27% of growers are producing a bushel of corn with less than 0.8 pounds of N. Another 48% grow a bushel with 0.8-0.99 pounds of N, while 22% did so with 1.0-1.2 pounds of nitrogen. Only 3% of no-tillers applied over 1.2 pounds of N for every bushel of harvested corn.

On the other hand, David Hula’s 623-bushel worldwide record-setting corn crop received 575 pounds of N per acre. That works out to 0.922 pounds of N for each bushel of corn, or 96% more per bushel than the top finisher in the N management class in the NCGA 2023 yield contest.

While many growers believe it takes too much N to set yield records, only 25% of the growers answering the 2024 No-Till Farmer Benchmark study applied more N that Hula used on his 623 bushel per acre award-winning strip-till entry.

With his 590-bushel per acre no-till winning entry, Craig Hula applied 575 pounds of N per acre. That works out to 0.97 pounds of N for each bushel of corn.

In summary, our review of this data demonstrates that there isn’t any reason to believe there’s a  yield drag with no-tilled or strip-tilled corn. When strip-till and no-till dominate yields like they did in 2023, there’s no reason to take a back seat to growers who argue that tillage is a necessity. Despite drought conditions in many areas, corn growers using all tillage practices still find a way to produce high yields in 2023.

Read more from the Frankly Speaking series here.