Continuous corn cropping works for Indiana farmer

Big yields with hybrid varieties | Farmer says the yields he generates from growing corn year after year are better than a corn-soybean rotation

BROWNSBURG, Ind. — Most U.S. Midwest farmers follow a corn-soybean rotation, but Hession Farms’ 5,000 acres are always in corn.

“We feel we are better at producing corn. Year in year out, we consistently hit top yields with corn,” said Anthony Hession, whose family emigrated from Ireland in 1837.

“Our corn yields can compete with any corn-soy rotation.”

Last year, corn grown on the farm’s three locations in three nearby counties averaged 210 bushels per acre. It was the best yielding crop that the multi-generational family farm has ever produced.

More rain this year will produce good yields, but Hession doesn’t think the farm will reach last year’s good yields.

Hession seeds hybrid varieties from DeKalb and AgriGold after years of using Pioneer varieties.

“We don’t think the new varieties have the grain quality, but they’re beating them hands down on yield,” he said.

The varieties he seeded vary from 108 to 113 days maturity to help spread out harvest.

He plants his corn at 38,000 seeds per acre: rates higher than that don’t generate the same yields and lower rates reduce the crop’s standability.

Hession was an early adapter of GPS technology in the mid-1990s, including auto steer and yield mapping.

This year he used drones to help him map a 540 acre piece of land for tile drainage.

“It’s amazing what you can see with the drones,” he said.

Hession contracts all his corn with Cargill, which supplies the food-grade crop to General Mills and Kellogg’s.

About half of this year’s crop has been pre-priced.

He has 600,000 bu. of storage and hauls 75,000 to 100,000 bu. a month to the Cargill facility in nearby Indianapolis from October to July.

The old corn rows are split each fall and fertilizer is applied eight to 10 inches deep in preparation for spring seeding.

The farm’s location on the edge of a growing city means land is difficult to buy or rent. The family bought two farms in counties further from Indianapolis to help ensure they can continue to farm.

Land prices are $8,000 to $12,000 per acre.

The Hessions planted 10,000 hybrid walnut trees developed at nearby Purdue University when they sold their cattle and hogs in 1996. The trees were planted on low land that was once used for pasture.

They take about 25 years to mature, compared to 100 years for a native walnut tree. The trees will be sold for lumber at about $10,000 each.

The trees are not much work now, but at the beginning, the family spent days pruning them to ensure a straight, knot-free tree for lumber. Most of the trees are sold overseas to be used for veneer furniture.

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