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Posted 30 November 2015. PMN Crop News.

Champaign County Farmer Sets New State Soybean Yield Record

Weather, genetics and intense management lead to 108 bushels

Source: Illinois Soybean Association Press Release.

Bloomington, Illinois (November 10, 2015)--If outstanding soybean yields are the mission, it’s “mission accomplished” for Champaign County farmer Jason Lakey and his father Robert, who set a new verified state soybean record with 108.3 bushel yield as part of the Illinois Soybean Association's (ISA's) checkoff-funded 100 Bushel Yield Challenge program.


"It’s a real thrill to reach this level of soybean yields," explains Jason Lakey of Urbana, Ill. "We’ve had good luck with corn yield contests in the past, but this is the first year we really started chasing big bean yields."

“The Lakeys management approach really shows what soybeans are capable of,” says Shelby Kaufman, with Ehler Bros. Co. in Thomasboro, Ill., one of the agronomists working with the Lakeys throughout the season. “The entire team worked closely and had great communication. We monitored plant health and conditions every two to three weeks, and adjusted our approach as needed to keep the plants green and stress-free as long as possible.”

Not alone in the hunt for high yields

ISA established the Yield Challenge in 2010 to encourage growers to conduct on-farm research to evaluate different management practices that can increase yields and profits. The 100-Bushel Yield Challenge was added in 2013 and includes a $5,000 top prize.

This year’s Yield Challenge had several growers with yields in the upper 80- to 90-bushel per-acre range, and about half of all participants entered both the standard Yield Challenge and the 100-Bushel Challenge.

"We’ve always said that soybean yields have greater upside potential with the right management," says John Longley, soybean farmer from Aledo, Ill., and ISA Production Committee chair. "The new record set by the Lakeys is a prime example of what’s possible. And with many farmers closing in on 100 bushels, it’s clear that management matters for beans just as it does for corn."

More complete results, including state and regional Yield Challenge winners, will be available in January.

Raising 100 bushel beans

Lakey’s Yield Challenge plot was planted on April 23 on 20-inch rows with a 4.1 maturity group variety—Asgrow AG4135.

“Early planting is really key, as is using a good full-season bean variety, like a 3.8 to 4.2,” says Lakey. “We want those plants to stay green as long as possible and collect more sunlight to maximize the yields. We used a combination of defensive approaches and offensive approaches, and that helped us learn what beans can do.”

According to Kaufman, the 20-inch rows offer an advantage, too. “In this area, we see the 20-inch rows perform the best, slightly ahead of 15-inch rows and especially against 30s. The 20-inch spacing allows for more air movement early, but still gives a good canopy closure to help prevent weed issues later in the season.”

Benefits of on-farm research

Lakey relied on guidance from Ehler Bros. Co. staff including David Ehler, Kris Ehler and Shelby Kaufman, as well as Asgrow District Sales Manager Pat Conlin, Jason Watson from StollerUSA, Chad Barnes with Illini FS, Shawn Clapp from Rosen's Inc., to help make the right decisions on his 2015 Yield Challenge test plot.

Lakey says the program has helped him and his father evaluate best management practices for his farm.

"We learned a lot this season. We planned for mid-season aerial applications, foliar feeding and more intensive management overall to push those yields as high as we could," he says. “You have to take some chances and then see what can be applied to the rest of your farms.”

Visit for an in-depth Q&A with Lakey, Kaufman and other key players who contributed to this new state soybean record.

The Illinois Soybean Association represents more than 43,000 soybean farmers in Illinois through the state soybean checkoff and membership efforts. The checkoff funds market development, soybean production and profitability research, promotion, issues management and analysis, communications and education. Membership and advocacy efforts support Illinois soybean farmer interests in local areas, Springfield and Washington, D.C. ISA programs are designed to ensure Illinois soy is the highest quality, most dependable, sustainable and competitive in the global marketplace. For more information, visit the website

Amy Roady