Halifax County was represented well in the Virginia Soybean Yield Contest for 2021 with Turbeville farmer Jonathan Hudson walking away with first place and Virgilina farmer Steven Bowen landing third in the state for their divisions.
They were up against 19 farmers who each had to submit three or more acres in one block from a field of at least 10 acres.
Hudson yielded 96.5 bushels per acre with his irrigated field and Bowen had 82.65 bushels per acre with a non-irrigated field.
“It feels great,” said Hudson, who went home with $2,500 in prize money. But, he was more impressed with Bowen’s success.
“I’m more surprised with Steve Bowen to break 82 with non-irrigated. I consider that more of an accomplishment than breaking 100 or whatever with irrigation,” he added.
Hudson broke a record in 2019 with a yield of 108.9 and in 2017, he lost out with a yield of 102.
Bowen said, “I was shocked, but hard work pays off.”
Halifax ANR Extension Agent Rebekah Slabach said, “To have this many winners from Halifax County and Southern VA with our soils and weather in the past year fair up well against producers that are larger scale or in eastern Virginia is a major feat! It shows that the tenacity of our producers and their attention to detail and innovation is what really matters – not their age nor the size of their operation.”
She also said she was excited to see Adam Davis of Nathalie grow and serve as the president of the Virginia Soybean Association.
“Halifax County agriculture has much to be proud about in 2022,” said Slabach.
Bowen has been farming since 1996 and has farms in Virgilina, Mecklenburg County and Granville County. But, this was the first year he entered the Virginia Soybean Yield Contest.
“I’m thankful for the landowners who allow me to grow crops on their property. If it wasn’t for the landowners, I wouldn’t be able to do it,” said Bowen.
Hudson has been farming his whole life, and went to Virginia Tech where he received his bachelors in agriculture and applied economics and then his MBA in corporate finance and investment banking.
When he came back home and took over the farm with his brother, his brother Steve took over looking after the tobacco and produce while Hudson looks after the grain.
Last year, they planted 1,200 acres of channel soybeans, 500 acres of field corn, 500 acres of seed wheat, about 120 acres of tobacco and 30 acres of fresh produce.
Meanwhile, Bowen is working towards a “50/50 rotation” with 300 acres of corn, 800 acres of axis soybeans and 158 acres of tobacco. He has other crops as well such as hemp and wheat.
They both have historically planted soybeans in April.
Hudson said he usually plants around the 15th of April, but he said the “sweet spot” is the last week of April, first of May.
Whereas, Bowen said he typically plants his the last week of April, but this year, he said he may try to get his crop in the ground by mid-April.
They’re both trying to take advantage of the summer solstice, which is around June 21, and is the longest day of the year.
Hudson explained saying, “They’re usually blooming a few days before the summer solstice that way when they’re blooming, that’s the reproductive stage, you put all the pods you can on the plant. Soybeans work on daylight.”
After Bowen plants in April, he sprays them with herbicide jut before canopy, then they add fertilizer and then after the pods set, they spray fungicide.
“After that, they’re on their own,” he added.
But Hudson said, “there’s a lot of attention to detail.”
He said he stays focused on keeping his soybeans clean and keeping all the nutrients where they need to be. He also usually does a tissue analysis.
With a tissue analysis, he said, “I’m trying to figure out what is the first nutrient to run low.”
A tissue analysis tells him the potassium level, its phosphorus level and then micronutrients.
“If you do it every week then you see what your plant is doing and the first one to fall off, you sort of see that was your limiting factor,” Hudson explained.
He also uses a center pivot irrigation system.
“You can do everything right on a soybean crop — keep it weed free, take care of all your funguses, pests. Then if you don’t get rain in august… with irrigation you can try new things and can get water when needed and see did that make a difference,” said Hudson.
“Where you can do it, I think its money well spent,” he added, speaking of his irrigation system.
But, Bowen said the weather was on his side last year.
“Right here in Virgilina, we were blessed all year. We had good ample rainfall and everything did real well,” he said.
Bowen takes his crop to Scoular grain facility in Windsor where all of his soybeans are shipped oversees, and Hudson Cargill soybean processing plant in Fayetteville, North Carolina separate the oil and the soybean meal.
Both agree that soybeans have been a good crop for them to grow around here.
“Commodity prices are up,” said Bowen.
But, Hudson added to his comments saying, “It’s still money to be made, but it’s more risky.”
According to the Virginia Soybean Board, revenue collected in the fiscal year ending June 30, 2021 totaled $1,368,693.43 up from $953,570.78 collected the previous year. During the 2020 marketing season, producers experienced a farm gate price that was 3.10 higher than the previous year and 3.60 higher than in 2018.
Slabach added, “Virginia saw a record-breaking harvest and year for soybean production in 2021. Some crop producers continue to diversify and many invested in more acreage of soybeans in 2021 due to strong prices. 2021 was a year of challenges with drought conditions and major rainfall deficits but by adapting to innovation and pivoting during the season, producers were still able to be successful. Jonathan Hudson and Steven Bowen are examples of this!”
It’s safe to say the risk paid off for both Bowen and Hudson last year.
They plan to continue their farming efforts, and Bowen plans to enter next year’s contest with both soybeans and corn.
The Virginia Soybean Yield Contest for 2021 was brought to farmers by the Virginia Soybean Association in cooperation with the Virginia Soybean Board and Virginia Cooperative Extension.