“Neosho River bottomland farmer wins 100-bushel challenge.”
That wasn’t a true newspaper headline from the 1960s, but it sure could have been.
Farmers were challenged by a major seed company to compete for prizes to grow corn that yielded 100-bushels an acre.
Few Kansas farmers were planting corn 60 years ago, and yields were typically far below winning the award.
It was a national competition so likely certain farmers in prominent corn growing states like Iowa did achieve that yield.
There may have even been a couple Kansas farmers with rich cropland and ample rainfall who grew some 100-bushel corn. Of course, that may have been on a selected small bottomland acreage just enough to meet contest criteria.
State records indicate corn was a Kansas farm crop a century-and-a-half ago. However, yields were typically low, at least compared to 100-bushels an acre.
With a higher percentage of uphill “gumbo” in Kansas, majority of farmers found growing milo more profitable. Sometimes referred to as “grain sorghum” in state historical data, milo would especially produce more profit in dry years.
However, in the late ’60s when the vocational agriculture teacher encouraged a hands-on crop growing effort, corn was selected. Seven acres just outside the city limits were leased on a share-basis from a friend landowner.
A contract was developed by the bank clerk on his manual typewriter with signatures making the agreement binding. A 1939 John Deere B, although uncertain of exact year, was put to work by a high school freshman
The two-bottom wheel plow and ground-pull disk were used tilling the clay soil. A two-row “lister” planted the seed purchased in 50-pound bags at the elevator. Several commented about how crooked the rows were.
Fertilization didn’t seem important but weeds grew about as fast as the corn. However, there was some corn on the ears, and another farmer was hired to pick what was there. Uncertain of yield, old records indicate it wasn’t a profitable venture.
Today, corn is a prominent Kansas crop with yields double sometimes triple challenges of decades gone by. So abundant is the corn many elevators have huge piles on the ground overflowing bin space. Yields are still less than in one Bible verse.
Reminded of Genesis 41:6: “He dreamed seven ears full-bodied and lush grew out of a single stalk.”