Shullsburg crop farmer shares advice on winning corn yield strategy

Samantha Hendrickson
Wisconsin State Farmer
Tim Appell is a Shullsburg crop farmer, and winner of the National Corn Grower's Association's 2021 National Corn Yield Contest.

Tim Appell is no stranger to a win. 

The Shullsburg crop farmer won the 2020 National Corn Grower's Association's (NCGA) National Corn Yield contest, and is a two-time winner of the same contest at the state level, including the 2021 contest. 

While any farmer knows that any crop yield comes with uncertainty due to weather, bad seed and other uncontrollable factors, there's always a few things you can do to help a crop along — things Appell and his family are happy to share with their fellow farmers. 

"It's rewarding, I guess is the best way to put it... it's all your hard work, and you hope you're doing things right... I don't know if it's all luck, but everything has to line up perfect," Appell said. 

The Appell operation

Appell comes from a multi-generational farming family, and currently runs his 2,000 acre corn and soybean farm with his wife, Wendy, his young son and a few part-time farm hands. They also own a commercial grain facility. 

Tim Appell is a Shullsburg crop farmer, and winner of the National Corn Grower's Association's 2021 National Corn Yield Contest. He is pictured with his wife Wendy (right) and two children outside their commercial grain facility.

Appell said they first got into the NCGA contest at the encouragement of his seed salesman.

"He told us we were doing things right, and he thought it was a good opportunity for us," Appell said. 

With three wins under his belt at state and national levels, as well as a close second in the 2021 national contest for soybean yield, Appell has taken advantage of that good opportunity. 

Test your soil, trust your seed salesman 

Appell's go-to corn seed has been consistent for as long as he's been farming, and it hasn't failed him yet.  

"We pretty much have been almost all DeKalb as long as we've been doing it," he said. "I believe they have some incredible numbers."

Selecting specific seed is a lot about trial and error and communicating with other farmers about their successes, Appell said. However, one of the keys to a good yield is  a good relationship with your seed salesman. 

"They're the ones out there talking to farmers... they know that this number is doing good, that number is doing good... this didn't do as good with the weather. That definitely helps," Appell said.

Fertilizer application is different depending on what results he gets back from his soil test. Appell said he's careful about testing his soil, and the key to applying fertilizer is paying attention to those test results. 

Planting time and a good soil bed is also important. Appell says he planted on a sunny day after some rain, when the soil on top was warm and the soil down below was still moisture-rich. 

"It's proven year after year that if you don't plant in the right conditions, you lose at the end of the year," Appell said. 

And at the end of the day, he added, what you get out of the yield, depends on what you put into it. 

Samantha Hendrickson can be reached at 414-223-5383 or shendrickson@jrn.com. Follow her on Twitter at @samanthajhendr.