Since 2016, Archer’s ag team has been learning by doing at Archer Acre, our very own 20-acre 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. 

In 2021, 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 Tennessee, where the average corn yield is 180 bu/A. In 2020, we grew 268 bu/A.

Armed with learnings about products, practices and weather, we set out to best our yield and place in the National Corn Growers Association (NCGA) contest. To do so, we’d need to dedicate a full 10 acres to Project 300.

We knew it would take a lot more than extra acreage and hard work to top the 300 bu/A mark. That’s why we collaborated with our clients, industry advocates and agency partners to develop a high-yield plan using their products. Here’s what we looked for:

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 the crop nutrition program for our corn, including YaraVera® AMIDAS®, a granular formulation of nitrogen. YaraVera AMIDAS is a slow-release fertilizer, which allowed us to feed the plants all the way through pollination. Our corn was a beautiful deep green all season. 

A boost of energy. 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 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. 

Smart partners. 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. 

We crushed our goal.

By November 16, our corn was ready to harvest. Our entire 10-acre field averaged 300 bu/A! 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, and the results earned us second place for Tennessee in the NCGA yield contest.

But why is an advertising agency growing corn?

Archer is not your typical agency. Headquartered in Memphis, Tennessee, we have built a strong practice in the agricultural sector. Archer’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. We don’t want to know ag products in the abstract; we want to use them in the field and speak knowingly and confidently about their benefits. Our responsibility as an agency partner is to speak the language of our clients and their communities. 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 strong placement in a yield contest earns our team respect and credibility with farmers. In the ag world, that goes a long way.