Roy, 29, and Wilbur Burrus, 27, purchase farmland for $400/acre and trade farms with their father, Alexander Burrus. This land becomes the first farm for producing Burrus Hybrids and is still used today.
Wilbur Burrus and daughter Marilyn.
The Burrus brothers buy their first steel-wheel tractor.
There is no mechanical harvest, so all corn is picked by hand.
Roy Burrus with a basket of U.S. 13 hybrid ears in 1940.
Photo taken in 1941
Crop rotation is utilized because no fertilizer is available.
Introduction of Hybrid Corn
Roy and Wilbur Burrus work closely with the University of Illinois Extension of County Farm Advisors in a series of meetings held throughout the area touting hybrid corn. The Burrus brothers are strong advocates of the Extension Service, including the 4-H program. During the meetings, the Extension Service sells the new hybrid seed corn so farmers can produce their own. This marks the beginning of the Burrus Hybrid corn business.
Invasion of Chinch Bugs
An extremely dry year means chinch bugs become a nuisance. Because chemicals are not available to treat the insects, creative methods are invented and readily used to reduce the damaging results of infestation.
The Burrus brothers start the process by pulling a bush behind a team of horses to reduce the fields from clods to dust. Then, they take creosote, the same used today, and go around the field, and from a spout, they make a string of creosote about a half-inch wide. They take a posthole digger and dig postholes about two feet deep every 50 feet.
As the bugs move out of the grain and corn as it dries, they migrate to the cornfield for green food. When they come to this creosote barrier, they won't cross it because it will kill them. Instead, they start down the barrier until they come to the postholes and then fall into the holes. When the holes are filled with bugs, the brothers cover them with dirt.
Roy and Wilbur Burrus purchase their first tractor, a Farmall F20, the first tractors to have rubber tires. The tractor makes the tedious tasks of farming a little easier for the already hardworking men and women.
Roy and Wilbur's farm land grows to 618 acres total.
Roy and Wilbur acquire enough foundation seed to produce one acre of hybrid seed production to sell to their neighbors and use themselves. It is new and untested, so one acre is all the Burrus brothers can gamble on.
Burrus takes their new corn to Columbiana Farms to get it graded and sized.
Roy and Wilbur Burrus show hogs in Chicago at the International Stock Show. Fifty hogs was considered a carload, or what you can load into a railroad car. In 1935, a 200-lb. hog brings $5.00.
Roy and Wilbur Burrus increase production from one acre to five acres of hybrid seed corn.
Creative methods are used to save crops from grasshoppers that menace and ravage corn leaves across the country. The grasshoppers congregate in the green corn, so Burrus has the local tin man make a Hopper Dozer to fit on the bumper of a car or truck. As they drive through the field, the lip of the hopper hits the clover causing the grasshoppers to jump, thus hitting the tin and falling into kerosene water, killing them.
Burrus has 20 acres of hybrid seed corn production.
Photo taken in 1955
Roy and Wilbur Burrus start "selling"" hybrid seed corn in one-bushel bags for $6.50/bushel (from 1938 to 1970, corn is packaged in either one-bushel bags or 50-lb. sacks).
Roy and Wilbur buy their first International M tractor displayed at the Illinois State Fair for $900.
In the fall, the Burrus brothers borrow $10,000 to build a facility on the current site where they can shell, store, bag, and grade hybrid seed corn. The building has a 3,000-bushel drying capacity at one fill. Coal-fired furnaces and a fan provide heat and air. A 7.5-HP motor provides power. This motor is replaced by a tractor powering the fan and eventually a Catepillar motor for year-round use.
A turnout of 100 bags a day is good in this new facility. At this time, Burrus uses a cleaner and a new grading machine (both length and width graders).
There is one corner set aside for office space, where they have a desk, safe, counter, adding machine, and coal stove, but no restroom facilities.
Burrus sews the seed bags by hand with thick cotton thread and a needle.
Hybrid corn produces at least 80 bushels per acre while the average yield of commercial corn is 60 bushels per acre.
After the Depression, there are more people than work. Burrus pays $1.50 a day, so for a week's worth of work, the employees earn $9.00.
All corn is shucked by hand. Two to three people shuck together and then send a load to the plant.
Photo taken at Field Day in 1941
Tuesday, June 20th, Associated Growers is formed during a meeting at the Farm Bureau office in Jacksonville, Ill. The name, Burrus Brothers and Associated Growers, is adopted.
Burrus builds a 40' x 40' warehouse storage building on its current site to hold bags of seed. In the building, there is one leg (a bucket on drive to carry hybrid seed corn up). They pipe the seed down, put it in bags, and put it in the warehouse. When it is time to grade it, they bring the bags to the grading building, dump it, and put it in bags that are ready to be sold.
With only 20 acres of seed corn production, the corn business is still a sideline business for Burrus.
Burrus hires its first employee, Carlton Schumacher, as sales manager for $100/month. He remains with Burrus until his retirement in 1976. Burrus has four full-time employees. Orval Fricke joins Burrus Seed Farms and works full time until his retirement 40 years later, at which point he works part time for an additional 13 years during peak times. Orval's tenure totals 53 years.
Martin Burrus, after completing his sophomore year at the University of Illinois, comes home to help out with company accounting as bookkeeper and plant manager. He is paid $100/month. With his help and organization, employees' salaries are raised to $2.00 per day.
Burrus adds drying bins and grading equipment to the plant.
Burrus purchases its first International Harvester two-row corn picker. The machines are used until 1946.
Burrus has a dispersion sale, bringing an end to their shorthorn cattle business. The sale is successful. The cattle bring about $200 a head and the top bull brings $500.
Delbert Frye joins Burrus before the war and stays with the company until his death in 1989.
Burrus purchases first electric sewing machine for closing bags of seed that were previously hand-sewn. Because of the war, Burrus is required to get a $200 government permit to make the purchase.
Burrus builds its office facility on the current site. The original block building has a concrete floor, restrooms facilities, storage, and offices. It costs $1,500 to build and is finished in July.
Burrus hires its first female employee, Kathryn Lakamp, who works for Burrus from 1942 until she retires in 1980.
Edwin Dixon joins the Burrus sales staff and travels in western Illinois and Missouri until he passes away in 1969. His son Gene followed in his father’s footsteps and managed the territory for the next 35 years.
Martin Burrus returns from medical school at Johns Hopkins to run the family business after Wilbur Burrus, 52, dies on December 16th.
Burrus forms a three-way partnership between Martin Burrus, Roy Burrus, and Robert (Rob) Burrus.
Burrus purchases a two-row New Idea Corn Picker.
Burrus purchases its first detasseling machine, a Finco, which can carry six people to hand detassel a row per person.
The soybean is introduced from the Orient, becoming a major crop after World War II.
Fertilizer becomes available for crops.
Ready to grow and increase business, Roy, Rob, and Martin Burrus decide to handle the seed with conveyors and store it as loose corn. By deepening the drying bins and raising the roof, they increase drying capacity from 3,000 bushels to 4,000 bushels. They also enlarge the east warehouse to approximately 24 bins and put in flat conveyors to accommodate shelled corn. At this time, Burrus adds grading machinery with bins located below the graders for greater efficiency.
Burrus builds a storage building to accommodate the 40,000 bushels of seed corn to meet the demand for contract production by the Earl May Seed Company.
Wooden stilts made by the Crawford Lumber Company in Jacksonville are used for detasseling for the final year.
Roy Burrus, 61, dies on November 17 to leave Martin and Rob Burrus as the owners.
Record temperatures and drought blast the tassels into sterility. Therefore, there is no seed production in this year. It is almost like the corn is cooking in the field. On July 16th, the temperature is recorded at 116 degrees.
The fleet of international tractors at the Burrus Farm in the 1950's.
Burrus uses its first "moveable pipe" irrigation system.
Burrus raises 51,000 bushels of hybrid seed corn. This is the first crop to exceed 50,000 bushels.
Burrus adds a fourth floor with a main lift to the already three-story grading tower. A second leg is installed and the grading set-up is also revamped in an attempt to save on labor.
Troy Wood covers the western Missouri territory until he retires in 1967.
Burrus purchases Monier Seed Farms farmer-dealer organization.
Roger Monier joins the Burrus sales team.
Burrus begins selling 80,000-kernel units on single crosses only.
Burrus purchases its first forklift and moves to palletized handling of bags.
Burrus builds a 100' x 60' concrete block warehouse to handle pallets. The building is still in use today.
Gene Dixon takes over the territory his father managed as a Burrus regional sales manager.
The Southern Corn Leaf blight attaches to all varieties containing the race T sterile cytoplasm.
Burrus seed production is with six hybrids — all 100% normal cytoplasm — to sell in 1971.
Tom Burrus graduates from college and returns to the production crew.
Martin buys out Robert's part of the seed business and sells Tom and Todd one quarter interest each.
Burrus purchases Larson detasseling machines, which are still in use at Burrus facilities today.
Burrus yields in the production fields go down and the price jumps up. They put in-bred seed in the production field and sell seed corn at about $30 per unit.
Burrus introduces Interplant seed production replacing the traditional 6:2 planting pattern. They plant female on every 38-inch row, and for every other pair of females, they put a male pollinator on a 19-inch center. So, there is a female then 19" to male then 19" female then 38" to the next female row. This means a greater advantage over many companies.
Burrus learns to grow the in-breds at high populations in order for them to yield. This system utilizes 100% of the land inside the isolation barrier rather than 75% in the old 6:2 system or 80% in the 4:1 planting pattern. Interplant also allows for better pollen distribution with the male never more than 19" away from a female plant.
Burrus purchases the first Uniharvester Corn Picker, a three-row self-propelled harvester.
The price of seed corn surpasses $30/unit.
Burrus Seed Farms is Incorporated, and its ownership is equally divided among Martin, Tom, and Todd.
Burrus builds a concrete block dryer to fill the need for additional and more modern drying space. The dryer contains a huge fan and a propane-fired burner. They can handle, dump, and sort more corn and dry faster. They also acquire a stationary sheller. These additions are the first big investments in buildings. Although the new building offers more drying space and capacities, their business still demands that they store some of the seed in the older buildings.
Burrus adds on to their office building.
Bob Chamberlain begins as a salesman for the northern Illinois territory.
Burrus installs and implements its first center-pivot irrigation system covering 300 acres with a corner system.
Burrus is hit by a drought.
Burrus builds a bulk warehouse and attaches it to the concrete block drier. It is the first to have deep bins and "let-down" ladders.
Dale Wood joins the Burrus sales team to provide service in western Missouri. He increases sales tenfold in the nine years he works part-time for Burrus.
Burrus is hit by a drought again.
Burrus builds a new sizing tower. It has the ultimate in cleaning capabilities. It also features a potato chip elevator leg, called an Assecco leg, to minimize seed corn damage.
Larry Strohbeck and Richard Burns join the Burrus sales team.
Main frame computer installed in office to handle order entry, billing, mailing lists, and plots.
Burrus is hit by a drought and raises seed in the winter in Florida to bolster its supply.
Burrus adds on to the bulk-seed storage they built in 1980.
Bill Fugate joins the Burrus sales team.
Ed Curley joins the Burrus sales team.
Dale Wood dies in a traffic accident.
Tim Greene joins the Burrus organization first in production, and later in sales and management.
Burrus decides to increase the drying and sorting capacity. They go to a "husk-on" harvest and add a pit, husk and sort facility, dryer, and shuck accumulation area.
Burrus begins using Byron 6-row sweet corn harvesters.
Burrus adds two implement sheds and the east warehouse to its site, creating a dock, storage area, and a heated area for advertising material.
Burrus introduces the first Extra Energy hybrid, 980XE. and M.G. Kennedy joins the Burrus sales team.
Burrus introduces the first IMI herbicide resistant hybrid, BX70AT.
Jason Berg joins the Burrus sales team.
Burrus introduces the first TOPCROSS® BLEND to produce High Oil Corn, BX70TC.
Burrus demolishes its original buildings that include the first grading tower, ear corn drier, and storage.
Burrus offers its first YieldGard® CornBorer Bt hybrid for sale, 774Bt, and introduces the first Liberty Link® hybrid, 575LL, resistant to Liberty herbicide.
Burrus constructs its new research building that contains warehousing for palletized delivery, a 70-foot truck scale, conference rooms, offices, and a work room.
Burrus introduces the first Roundup Ready® corn hybrid, 671RR.
Burrus offers a revolutionary method of creating high, high yield (BX65 yield) with high, high oil content (above 8% oil) from the TOPCROSS® system, new 560TC3.
Photo taken in 2008
Burrus introduces the first YieldGard® Corn Borer Bt TOPCROSS® BLEND, 639BtTC.
Photo taken in 2009
Burrus introduces Gaucho® and Prescribe® seed treatments available on limited Burrus Hybrids.
Brad Veale is added the Burrus sales team to better serve customers and dealers throughout Illinois and Missouri.
Over 650 school-aged kids are employed for summer detasseling with Burrus.
Burrus launches the first stacked technology with one hybrid containing YieldGard® Corn Borer Bt and Roundup Ready® resistance, 628BtRR.
Burrus constructs a new shop for off-season equipment maintenance. It uses a corn-burning furnace for heat. Grain from regulated research projects is disposed of in an environmentally sound method.
Burrus launches the first YieldGard® Corn Rootworm protected hybrids and offers new seed treatments on most Burrus Hybrids. SuperStart®, Poncho Xtra® and High Rate Poncho® are available on a more limited hybrid selection at a nominal additional cost.
The introduction of YieldGard Plus technology has European and Southwestern Corn Borer protection and Corn Rootworm protection in the seed with two Bt genes. This is the first year Burrus offers a combination of YieldGard Corn Borer protection, Roundup Ready technology, and by adding the High rate Poncho seed treatment, pickup Corn Rootworm control, all on or in the seed.
Burrus lauches the BOSS 24/7 Burrus Online Support System available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. It is password protected for Burrus dealers so they can access all of their account information. Seed on order, what has shipped, payments, prepayments and ordering online are available at all times. The BOSS 24/7 automatically computes any discounts and does not allow a product to be ordered that is not available.
Herculex I Hybrid
Burrus launches its first Herculex I hybrid, 679HL, that has protection from European and Southwestern Corn Borer, Black Cutworm, and Western Bean Cutworm. In addition, it uses the Liberty herbicide resistance as a marker gene, which makes this technology resistant too. Herculex I is a registered trade mark of Dow AgroSciences.
Burrus launches its first Waxy hybrid 504WX. It will provide grain for premiums in some markets where waxy grain is identity preserved.
Burrus made major plant improvements, by adding new technology Satake color sorters and additional bagged warehouse space.
Gary Wenger joins Burrus to cover the territory in central Illinois previously served by the Dixon family.
Retirement and Passing
Gene Dixon retires after 35 years with Burrus. He followed his father Edwin Dixon after he died of a heart attack in 1969. Edwin had been with Burrus from 1939 to 1969. This 65-year service record for the Dixons to serve as Burrus dealers is a record that is not likely to be challenged by any family or seed company.
Martin Burrus passes away on December 30, 2004. See his obituary.
Burrus launches the first YieldGard Rootworm/Roundup Ready hybrid, 793RWR.
Burrus sets new all-time volume records again.
A fourth generation of family ownership begins when Kevin Burrus (Todd's son) and Tim Greene (Tom's son-in-law) join them as owners of Burrus Seed Farms, Inc.
Burrus produces it's first Triple Stack hybrid, Burrus 796T, that contains YieldGard Corn Borer, Rootworm, and Roundup Ready technology all in each seed. Because Poncho Xtra (250) is applied to this seed, growers have the ultimate in protection from insects.
Drought exaggerated the damage from corn rootworm in Illinois. Burrus introduces two YieldGard Plus/Roundup Ready 2 Hybrids, five YieldGard Rootworm/Roundup Ready 2 Hybrids, three YieldGard Plus choices, as well as continuing to offer three YieldGard Rootworm selections.
Burrus commits huge resources to seed production in Chile and Argentina to boost supply of stacked tract rootworm protected seed.
The STAK PAK introuduction simplifies a grower’s decision making by putting the correct refuge product on the pallet with the technology choice in the appropriate proportions.
Customers and dealers join the Burrus group to celebrate yield results with a trip to Maui, Hawaii.
Burrus purchases Hoblit® Seed Company of Atlanta, Ill., reaffirming the Burrus commitment to independence and to delivering quality products and service by strengthening the Burrus core strategy and positioning Burrus Hybrids for further market share growth. Hoblit continues to produce corn and soybeans, management and staff are retained, and the Atlanta, Ill. plant remains open. Hoblit soybeans in 50 lb. bags untreated or treated with Apron® Max or in 40-unit bulk bags mark the first foray of Burrus into soybeans.
Power Plus® brand®
A distribution agreement is signed by Burrus and the DuPont business Pioneer Hi-Bred for Burrus to exclusively distribute Power Plus brand® corn and soybeans. Power Plus brand® soybeans are launched by Burrus in three varieties – the high-yielding 3.4 maturity 34B9™, the 39G9™ for strong work across all soil types, and the 41F9™ with aphid tolerance and an affinity for the lighter soils of southern Illinois and Missouri. All are offered in EZ Load boxes.
At the Burrus plant, a 16,800-square-foot refrigerator storage unit along with a new staging and dock area are added. The cold storage facility protects seed by maintaining a constant 50 degree temperature and 50% humidity to maximize germination.
Soybeans — A First!
2009 marks the first time a soybean Product Selection Guide is produced by Burrus and the first time a brand of seed corn other than Burrus – Hoblit – is offered for sale.
Customers and dealers join the Burrus group for a strategy session and winter getaway trip in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico.
A strategic alliance is created between Burrus and Hughes Hybrids of Woodstock, Ill. The alliance with Hughes, a producer of seed corn, soybeans, and forage products distributed in northern Illinois and southern Wisconsin, provides both companies with more testing and enhanced line ups of seed corn and soybeans.
"If you go by the numbers, you’ll go buy our numbers" campaign launches with the yield results revolving around the philosophy of Think performance, Think technology, Think value, Think Burrus.
Bet The Back 40
As a testament to the performance power of Burrus seed, the soybean head-to-head comparison Bet the Back 40 was issued as a challenge to Monsanto Roundup Ready2 beans.
Field Day – 75th Anniversary
Burrus celebrates 75 years of operation with a field day at the Burrus plant west of Arenzville, Ill. Demonstrations include Power Plus brand® corn drought tolerance in pure sand, the new single-bag refuge system Optimum® AcreMax™ 1 insect protection, Dihaploids, low lin bean oil (and potato chips fried in it), laser-assisted seed selection, what’s new in seed treatments, the financial benefit of cropping plans, light utilization, and the latest techniques for higher population/narrower rows.
Tall Corn Plant
Agronomist Don "Corn Doctor" Rhoads of Burrus Hybrids attempts to set a record for the tallest corn plant grown. The plant reaches a height of nearly 20 feet before being toppled by a storm. The doctor is successfully talked down from the roof of the bagging facility without incident.
Jerad Ropp joins Burrus as precision farming specialist.
New Blending Unit, Robotics
Plant upgrades at the Arenzville facility include a new blending unit to make single-bag refuge products along with a new packaging line that features a robotic stacker and high rate seed applied insecticide treating. The modification allows Burrus to change packaging from individual units to EZ Load box and vice versa with ease.
100% free replant continues for the 76th consecutive year with soybeans now included in the replant offer.
Burrus introduces the "A" and "M" refuge system Optimum® AcreMax®; 1 and RW insect protection under the Power Plus brand® as the industry’s first one-product-per-field option for corn rootworm refuge that does not require granular insecticide for above and below ground insect protection.
Customers and dealers join the Burrus group for marketing and trait technology discussions in Cancun, Mexico.
A distribution agreement is announced between Burrus and Syngenta for Burrus to exclusively distribute the Catalyst™ brand seed corn with Agrisure®. Two products are unveiled – a triple stack for corn rootworm and corn borer protection, and product for dry lands with Artesian® technology.
Two new technologies are introduced by Burrus for single-bag refuge. Optimum® AcreMax® Xtra is for above and below ground insect control, while another model of AcreMax® is for above ground protection only.
Faster Filling Station
Upgrades at the Burrus plant include a new and faster filling station for EZ Load boxes for single-bag refuge seed.
Martha Krohe Joins Burrus
Martha Burrus Krohe joins the Burrus ownership team to offer contractual and administrative perspective, returning to the Arenzville area after serving as a compliance officer for a private investment company.
Both Don Rhoads, sales agronomist and Larry Strohbeck, Regional Sales Manager retire after 25 and 26 years respectively.
Burrus Purchases Warehouse
Burrus purchases a Jacksonville, IL warehouse facility adding an additional 70,000+ square feet of storage and office space.
BSFI Adds Irrigated Production
BSFI adds irrigated production acreage in Tazewell county to help supply growing demand
General Sales Manager Hire
John Brutty is added as the new General Sales Manager.