STANFIELD
Mint grower aces yield contests for corn, wheat

Dan Mills ()

A Stanfield mint grower recently won top honors at two separate contests designed to boost wheat and corn yields.

Dan Mills, of Mills Mint Farm, took first place in Oregon as well as nationwide at the first National Wheat Yield Contest in the irrigated spring wheat category. The contest was organized by the National Wheat Foundation, based in Washington, D.C.

One week later, it was announced that Mills also took first place for Oregon at the National Corn Growers Association’s Corn Yield Contest in the irrigated division.

Though Mills grows primarily spearmint and peppermint on the family’s 3,000-acre farm, he said they use both wheat and corn as rotational crops. Mills credited the region’s environment, as well as advances in precision irrigation technology, for his wins.

“With our climate and our soil, we produce some of the highest yields in the country,” Mills said.

Mills yield nearly 320 bushels per acre of corn using a variety developed by DuPont Pioneer. As for wheat, Mills used a variety by WestBred, owned by Monsanto, which yielded an average of 146.5 bushels per acre. The average yield for irrigated wheat in Oregon in 2013 was approximately 102 bushels per acre, according to the National Agricultural Statistics Service.

In addition to the natural growing environment, Mills said he works with IRZ Consulting in Hermiston to use real-time soil moisture monitors, which helps the farm to irrigate using exactly the right amount of water.

“We’ve tried to use new technology, and our yields have gotten better and better,” he said.

More than 170 farmers participated in the National Wheat Yield Contest, which included categories for spring, winter, irrigated and dryland wheat. The winners are determined based on yield increase over county averages.

The National Corn Yield Contest has divisions for irrigated, non-irrigated and no-till or strip-tilled corn. There were 343 state titles awarded this year, including Mills.

Mills said the contests do provide a benchmark to shoot for future yields.

“I would suspect a lot of growers in this area have comparable yields,” he said. “It’s mostly about testing varieties to see where you’re at.”

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Contact George Plaven at gplaven@eastoregonian.com or 541-966-0825.

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