DUMAS — For several years, Arkansas soybean growers have come close to a magic number: 100 bushels per acre. This year, Dumas farmer Nelson Crow achieved that goal.

The Arkansas Soybean Promotion Board set a $50,000 prize for reaching the 100-bushel mark, and if several farmers do it in the same year, the prize will be divided.

Crow tried his luck with this year’s crop.

"I hadn’t planned to enter this year, but the way the year took off, and when I looked at the crop, it looked really, really good," he said. "I knew we had a shot at it, but didn’t think we would ever do it."

The yield from Crow’s nearly 5.5-acre plot was certified Friday morning at 100.82 bushels per acre. "It was really, really close," Crow said.

The mark is particularly impressive considering the average statewide yield in 2012 was 43 bushels per acre.

Arkansas soybean producers have seen steep gains in output over the last dozen or so years. In 2000, the average yield for Arkansas was 25.5 bushels per acre. And five years ago, the Arkansas Soybean Association asked the Arkansas Soybean Promotion Board to pay for the incentive program.

Jeremy Ross, extension soybean agronomist for the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture, said he expected growers to eventually cross the 100-bushel threshold.

"We’ve been close the last several years. We’ve had yields in the upper 80s and upper 90s. The potential was there and the stars lined up just right — the right environmental conditions, planted in the right field at the right time," Ross said.

Soybeans represent the largest Arkansas crop, as measured by acreage. But the crop was not always so popular.

"Fifteen to 20 years ago, soybeans were kind of a stepchild," Ross said.

Over time, rice and cotton prices dropped while bean prices climbed, and improved soybean genetics led more growers to give them a shot.

Crow this year planted the Pioneer 93Y92 variety, which had produced yields in the 80-bushel-per-acre-range. He said growing conditions were just right.

"It’s been a perfect year for soybeans. I figured the 100-bushels would be broken this year. I didn’t know it would be me," Crow said.

Crow’s winning plot was part of a 207-acre field. He said he expects to harvest between 85 and 87 bushels per acre from the entire field.

The plot was certified by Wes Kirkpatrick, Desha County extension staff chair for the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture; Gus Wilson, Chicot County extension staff chair; and Dwayne Beaty, territory manager for Pioneer.

Kirkpatrick said Crow may have to share the prize money.

"I feel like there are more than just this one field that will get 100 bushels this year," Kirkpatrick said. "We’ve had a cooler summer, and although it’s been dry, most of our ground is irrigated. We have some high-yield potential."