Hula pulls in 429-bushel yield on eve of hurricane
By BRUCE HOTCHKISS
CHARLES CITY, Va. — King David continues to reign.
And he may have added yet another jewel to his crown.
David Hula of Renwood Farms near Charles City, Va., acknowledged as one of the nation’s leading growers of corn and multiple-year, corn yield champion, has submitted his entry in the 2011 corn yield contest sponsored by the National Corn Growers Association.
It documents a certified yield of 429.0556 bushels per acre.
The entry, which was submitted in the no-till irrigated class, was harvested Aug. 26 from a 43-acre field, not far from the James River, where the corn had grown as tall as the top of the cab of the combine.
That was one day before Hurricane Irene swept over the farm and flattened what corn was left standing in the field. “I wanted to finish another field before the storm, so we left a little bit.”
Hula, in previous years in the NCGA corn yield competition, had many times broken Virginia’s long-standing 300-bushel-an-acre barrier but his 2011 yield of 429 bushels raises the bar for Virginia and the Mid-Atlantic.
The harvest was observed and certified by Jim Wallace and Brian Noyes of the Colonial Soil and Water Conservation District, and Phil Hickman. marketing specialist for the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services and program director for the Virginia Corn Board.
The field is under a pivot irrigation system with water drawn from the James River.
In a later memo to the NCGA, Hickman reported that Hula had applied about 16 inches of water to the crop throughout the growing season.
In addition, Virginia received “considerable rainfall around the first of July which is the pollination time frame in Virginia.”
That rain added about 3 to 5 inches to the crop.
Hula said he had turned to a new seed from Pioneer, 2088HR.
“It was highly recommended,” he said.
He also knew that the field had potential. Some four years ago, Hula had harvested 385 bushels an acre there.
For the 2011 crop, “I babied it,” he admitted.
Obviously, the corn had more than the usual going for it.
Hula said it grew to “every bit of 14 feet tall” and after preliminary runs, “I knew we had something special.”
Other details: The soil type in the field is Pamunkey and Hickman reported the plant population as “very high.”
Renwood Farms is under what Hula calls “never till.”
Hula said his family has no-tilled its corn and soybeans since the early 1980s.
The field, which produced the 2011 entry, has been under continuous no-till since 1990.
Hula maintains that without tillage, crop yields are higher and production costs are lower.
“My dad and granddad, Stanley Sr., started no-tilling corn in the late 1960s as a way to cut costs,” Hula told the Corn and Soybean Digest last year. “When they didn’t see a yield reduction, they expanded the practice to more acres and more crops.
“We don’t need as much equipment or manpower as we do with a plow and cultivator,” he says. “We farm about 5,000 acres with only one 250-horsepower tractor, which uses about 1.5 gallons of fuel an acre.”
David Hula’s run at NCGA contest yield fame began in the drought years of 1996 and 1997 when he was second in his division.
He dropped to third in his division in 1999 with a yield of 257 bushels an acre.
Then, the run began in earnest.
In 2000, he harvested a certified yield of 308.5 bushels an acre in the no-till/strip till non-irrigated division, for the first time breaking Virginia’s 300-bushel barrier.
He was also first in his division in 2001 and in 2002.
And even with a yield of 305 bushels an acre, he missed by a fraction of a bushel of a three-peat at the top of the deck.
Then in 2003, Hula looked at his sun-baked acres and turned on his irrigation system.
There, he was credited with a yield of 321.8 bushels in the no-till irrigated division, which topped all other winning yields in all divisions and in both Class A and Class AA competitions.
It was the first time that he was the top corn grower in the country, but not the last.
He topped the nation again with 339.4 bushels in 2004 and did it again in 2007 with 385 bushels an acre.
Already a three-time national corn-growing champion, he was one of three Mid-Atlantic growers named national winners in the 2009 yield contest.
He led the pack placing first in the no-till/strip-till non-irrigated division with a yield of 319.3 bushels per acre.
Only four other national winners among the total of 24 — three national winners are named in each of eight divisions — had yields exceeding that of Hula’s harvest
Then, in 2010, Hula was one of two Mid-Atlantic growers named national winners.
The difference that year was that Hula’s yield of 368.4 bushels an acre topped the entries of 7,118 other growers from across the country.