farm equipment in a field harvesting corn

Why an Ad Agency Challenged Itself to Break Corn Yield Records

How (and Why) an Ad Agency Achieved 333 bu/A of Corn Yield in West TN

Since 2016, Archer Malmo’s ag team has been “learning by doing” at Archer Acre, our very own farm. Archer Acre is located at Agricenter International, a nonprofit dedicated to ag research, education and conservation on 1,000 prime acres of Memphis soil. Over the years, we’ve used our “acre” to grow 15 different crops, test various client products, conduct on-farm agronomic research trials and create our own line of branded food products. 

Last year, we embarked on a new challenge: Project 300, our quest to achieve a 300 bushels of corn per acre (bu/A) yield. It was an extremely aggressive goal, particularly for this region. For reference, the average corn yield in Tennessee is 180 bu/A. In 2020, we grew 268 bu/A corn on one acre.

Our team learned a lot about products, practices and weather in our first year of corn growing, so we approached 2021 with a bigger goal: to place in the National Corn Growers Association (NCGA) contest. To do so, we’d need to dedicate a full 10 acres to Project 300 (which our partners at Agricenter International were gracious enough to accommodate).

All year long, we’ve set out to crush our goal. We’ve been tracking our plans and progress for Project 300 since March on Twitter @ArcherAcre.

See how our corn grew throughout the year:

On April 28, we got our corn in the ground. Just seven days later, green stalks emerged.

Here’s what the field looked like by mid-June:

And here’s what our corn looked like by the end of July:

By November 16, our corn was ready to harvest.

It’s been many months coming, but now, we’re pleased to announce the results of our efforts.

We crushed our goal.

Our entire 10-acre field averaged 300 bu/A of corn. That’s a yield milestone very few achieve—especially here in Tennessee. In 2019, just 2.1% of the 7,200 farmers who entered the NCGA yield contest attained 300 bu/A. According to the USDA, the national average corn yield for 2021 was 174.8 bu/A.

Even more impressive? One 3.3-acre plot within our field weighed in at 333 bu/A. 

We proved it’s possible to grow top-end yields in West Tennessee. Our hard work has earned us second place for Tennessee in the National Corn Growers Association yield contest.

How did we achieve this extraordinary yield?

It took a lot more than hard work to secure our exceptionally high yield of corn this year. Here are some contributing factors:

Superior genetics. We didn’t just plant any old corn seed. We planted AgriGold 6659, a 116-day corn hybrid that’s known as the “Southern Stud.” Thanks to our friend Perry Galloway at Hefty Seed in Augusta, Arkansas, for furnishing us the seed. Perry is a perennial yield champion and one of the best farmers in America.

High plant population. Most farmers plant 30,000-35,000 seeds per acre, avoiding higher seed population because it requires more intensive management. We chose to plant 48,000 seeds per acre after conducting a population study that showed the benefits of higher populations. 

Ideal planting conditions. We planted on April 28 into perfect soil conditions with temperatures above 70 degrees. We had nearly 100% crop emergence. 

Outstanding crop nutrition. Our friends at Yara North America provided an excellent crop nutrition program for our corn, including YaraVera® AMIDAS®, a granular formulation of nitrogen. YaraVera® AMIDAS® is a slow-release fertilizer, which we believe allowed us to feed the plants all the way through pollination. Our corn was a beautiful deep green all season. 

Biovante energy boost. Rapidly growing, high-yielding crops require a lot of energy. To boost energy, reduce crop stress and help maintain outstanding plant health, we made two applications of BioMate, a yield-enhancing mixture of sugars and bacteria from Biovante. 

Excellent pollination. We had relatively mild temperatures during the critical phase of pollination, and we irrigated twice during this time. Our ears were very long and completely filled out to the tips, consistently producing more than 40 kernels per row. 

Heavy kernels. Our test weight was 59 pounds (versus the standard kernel weight of 56 pounds). 

Last but certainly not least, our success would not have been possible without the help of Agricenter International’s Dr. Bruce Kirskey, who has been the best farming partner we could ask for. Our partnership with Agricenter International allowed us to make Archer Acre, Project 300 and our NCGA entry a reality.

But why is an advertising agency growing corn?

Archer Malmo is not your typical agency. Headquartered in Memphis, Tennessee, since 1952, we have built up a strong practice in the agricultural sector. Our ag practice is led by Fred Nichols, who, in a previous life, operated a grain farm in Western Illinois. At a base level, Archer Malmo’s investment in Archer Acre and Project 300 is driven by a love for farming. But it’s much more than that.

Through Archer Acre and Project 300, our ag team has gained valuable experience and insight about our partners’ products—which helps us market them better. Anybody can tell you they “get” your business. Not many can prove that they do. 

We don’t want to know ag products in the abstract; we want to use them in the field and understand how they help—to be able to show people what they do. We want to speak the language of our clients and their prospects. Growing on Archer Acre gets our whole team closer to fluency. 

Finally, the ag community is built on relationships. Our foray into farming has allowed us to build on our relationships and create new ones by involving clients, partners and even local students in our efforts. We’ve shared our harvest with this community. Reaching our yield milestone and securing a respectable placement in a yield contest earns our team respect and credibility with farmers. In the ag world, that goes a long way.

What’s next for Archer Acre after Project 300?

We look forward to bringing in more partners to help us conduct high-yield trials for other crops in the future. Be sure to follow us on Twitter @ArcherAcre and on Instagram @archeracre to see what new projects we have planned for 2022!