Matt Fortenberry's soybean yield of 84.2 bushels per acre on about six acres of non-irrigated land near Eudora in 2003 is a record that may stand for a long time, say agricultural experts.

The yield mark allowed the 29-year-old farmer to win the Arkansas Soybean Yield Challenge. His prize was the use of a Caterpillar Challenger tractor from J.A. Riggs Tractor Co. of Little Rock for 50 hours and $500 worth of soybean seed from Asgrow.

"That's an outstanding yield. It has raised the bar pretty high," said Dr. Chris

Tingle, soybean specialist with the University of Arkansas Cooperative Extension Service.

Second- and third-place winners were Dee Henderson of England, 82.5 bushels an acre, and Tim Smith of Holly Grove, 81.6 bushels. They also won use of Riggs equipment.

"This is the first year to break 80 bushels per acre, and all of the top three did," said Gary Sitzer of Weiner, a member of the board of directors of the Arkansas Soybean Association (ASA), which sponsors the contest.

Dr. Lanny Ashlock, another ASA board member and former Extension specialist, said, "A great variety, an early production system, productive soil and timely rainfall contributed greatly to Matt's farming success.

"This feat of obtaining 84.2 bushels an acre without the benefit of irrigation may stand for a long time. It's questionable if Arkansas has ever recorded non-irrigated yields of this magnitude."

Fortenberry lives in Lake Providence, La., and farms 1,600 acres of soybeans and corn and 700 acres of cotton in Louisiana and around Eudora. He credits much of his success to the weather.

Tingle agrees. "Probably the big key to the growing season last year was timely rainfall. There's no better irrigation than what Mother Nature herself provides. Timely producer management and milder temperatures, especially nighttime temperatures, during the reproductive stage were also important keys to Matt's success."

Fortenberry said the six-acre section of land was part of a 70-acre field that cut an average of 77 bushels per acre. The section sits on a "good high ridge."

"Carl Hayden, the Chicot County agent, helped me a bunch," the farmer said. "I talked to him a great deal on the phone about insect pressure. He's a good Extension agent. My chemical salesman helped me too."

Fortenberry said he sub-soiled the land in January and applied 100 pounds of potash per acre in February before planting the field in Asgrow 4403 on April 15. He harvested about 120 days later.

Ashlock said that indeterminate Maturity Group 4 varieties dominated the 2003 Arkansas Yield Contest.

Henderson drill planted Armor 47-G7, a Maturity Group 4.7 variety, on former cotton ground April 28 and harvested Sept. 10. Ashlock said Henderson makes a point to inoculate the seed at planting for fields that are coming out of long-term cotton.

"Also, Henderson uses the University of Arkansas computerized irrigation scheduling program for his five irrigations in 2003," Ashlock said.

Smith has won third place for two consecutive years. He planted Armor 47-G7 in 15-inch wide rows on a 60-inch raised bed.

"This combination enabled him to irrigate in a timely manner with less risk of injuring the soybeans if heavy rain fell within a couple days of an irrigation," Ashlock said. Smith planted May 9 and harvested 131 days later on Sept. 18.

For more information about the contest, contact the ASA at (800) 247-8691 or or contact your county Extension agent. The Cooperative Extension Service is a part of the U of A Division of Agriculture.

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