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Iowa's 'Corn King' might forfeit crown

Childs selling machinery

Associated Press

MANCHESTER, Iowa -- Farmers might have only one more shot to dethrone Iowa's "Corn King," who might give up his kingdom after a long reign.

Francis Childs of Manchester will hop on his Case-IH tractor to plant his 45th consecutive corn crop this spring. However, the 64-year-old is contemplating retirement after harvest.

Childs holds the world record yield for non-irrigated corn yield at 442 bushels per acre. He's won the National Corn Growers Association yield contests five out of the past six years, along with numerous other crowns since 1960.

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He plans on entering the contest again this year, after being disqualified last year because of an improper wagon check by NCGA officials, he said. Citing his age and other factors, Childs said this could be his last year. As proof he'll hold a machinery auction April 15 at the Delaware County Fairgrounds.

"I turn 65 this fall. I plan to plant and to see what happens this year and go from there," Childs said.

He plans to sell off unneeded equipment. Following a recent divorce, his acreage has been reduced to 120 acres.

Winning the yield contest year after year has brought the Manchester farmer some celebrity. He has sponsorship deals with companies, which include free corn seed from Pioneer Hybrid International and use of new Case-IH equipment.

Equipment for sale ranges from a 1997 Case-IH 8940 diesel cab tractor and an International Harvester Cyclo eight-row planter to a 1951 Farmall Super C tractor.

He's not sure how the sale will impact him emotionally.

"I'm not sure if I'll make it," Childs said. "The last year I used that corn planter I got 408 bushels (per acre). ... Set a record twice with it."

Although his farming days could be concluding, Childs won't retire to the golf course. He plans to continue speaking on the lecture circuit trying to help farmers obtain maximum yields.

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He's also considering more consulting work. Several farmers have asked for his assistance during planting season.

Childs said farmers have to be willing to change to achieve his bin-busting crops. He said his techniques are anything but conventional. Last year he claimed test plots neared an unheard of 600 bushels per acre. Most farmers are ecstatic to top 220 bushels per acre.

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