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Hodgen Farms

Science Drives Diversified Farm
Embracing technology to improve yields, aid environment

For farmer Paul Hodgen, science, education and agriculture are inextricably linked.

After earning his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in agronomy and soil science from Oklahoma State University and his doctorate in agronomy and soil fertility from the University of Nebraska, Paul put his education to work as an agronomy researcher.

“I always had a passion for farming and after working for Monsanto for several years, I wanted to raise our four children close to at least one set of grandparents – and the farm was calling,” Paul says.

In 2012, Paul and his wife, Jennie, made the move from his office in St. Louis back to the family’s Indiana farm.

Today Paul grows corn, soybeans and winter wheat and raises cattle with his parents, Abe and Shirley, near Roachdale, Indiana.

“I use my education every day,” he says. “Science and technology have evolved how our family farms and have positively impacted how today’s agricultural practices protect our natural resources and improve our crop yield.”

He specifically points to the science of plant genetics and the adoption of GPS as ways science has helped farmers become more efficient and more environmentally friendly.

“Technology has allowed us to farm with less tillage and reduce both the number of trips through a field and the amount of inputs used. The impact we have on the environment has greatly been reduced over the last few decades,” Paul says. “We try to be very good stewards of the land and do whatever is necessary to preserve this land for future generations.”

What’s more, he says, farmers in states like Indiana are working smarter while also steadily increasing crop yield.

“Year over year we are producing more with fewer and fewer inputs,” Paul says. “It normally takes about 40 years to double yields as a national aggregate. We will have cut that time in half for the second double and will probably cut it in half again. That rate of yield increase is often greatly underestimated.”

This year represents dad Abe’s 49th crop, and the agricultural technological changes over those nearly five decades are almost unimaginable.

“The farm equipment I started with was 12 feet wide manipulated through field at 4 miles per hour. Today we run up to 120-foot-wide equipment that operates between 8 and 20 miles per hour,” Abe says. “Technology has allowed us to feed a lot of people.”

Science has just changed how farmers do their jobs as well as how harvested crops are used.

Hodgen Farms produces several different types of soybeans including food-grade, high-oleic, non-GMO and commodity beans. Half of the farm’s soybean crop goes into making renewable diesel to fuel vehicles that are more environmentally friendly. The remainder of the crop is processed into other products such as vegetable oil or soybean meal for animal feed.

“We now have the ability to make heart-healthy oils from soybeans instead of ocean fish,” Paul says. “Soybean byproducts are also used to create things like a concrete sealer that keeps water from getting into concrete and deteriorating bridges so they’ll last longer.”

The story is similar for the farm’s corn crop.

About half of the family’s crop goes to ethanol production. About 25% is food-grade corn that is processed into corn flour, cornstarch and corn sugar. The remainder is used for animal feed.

“We have hard evidence that by adopting ethanol we have cleaner air in our cities and that’s just at the 10% blended rate,” Paul says.

The farm’s cattle also benefit. They feed on cornstalks for roughage and are fed dry distiller's grain, a protein that is a byproduct of ethanol production.

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