Last year at this time I wrote about tracking corn moisture in the standing fields. With the snow depths we’ve had this year, I’m thankful producers are not out pulling ears every week worrying about this issue again. Instead, most of you are refining your acreage plans for the upcoming planting season. Seed has been purchased for most acres but there are always those swing acres in our area due to the uncertainty of planting conditions.
Corn acreage in our region has increased significantly in the past five years, but soybeans still have twice the acreage and get about half the publicity. The biggest reason I see for this, is the difference in how yield is determined between these crops. As the farmer/consultant/seed dealer, we have way more influence over corn yields versus soybean yields.
The biggest yield determiner in soybeans is Mother Nature. I have seen countless university and private soybean yield studies resulting in equal numbers of positive and negative yield responses to agronomic trials on population, seed treatments, post-applied inputs, etc. A recent study from Ontario showed a high yield soybean trial designed simply to get the highest yield possible out of a larger sized plot. They had eight different products along with the seed. They did achieve 75 bu/ac in their plot, which is excellent. However, the untreated check plot ran 72 bu/ac. It doesn’t take much figuring to see that the higher yielding plot lost in overall profit.
Soybean genetics are at the point now, even in the upper plains, where excellent top yields in soybeans are achievable! But how do we preserve those yields? I really think this question should be the focal point in raising soybean yields. Since Mother Nature is our biggest foe, how do we prevent her from robbing us of yield?
There are many types of practices and products to consider. I’ve tested the following and each has had consistent returns. Seed-applied fungicides have given me an economic return the majority of time. They won’t net an additional 5 bu/ac every year, however, I’ve seen about 1 bu/ac in 12 trials over the last six years. With low input cost, this is a very positive return. Make sure the treatment you use is right for your area though. We use a higher rate of Metalaxyl (Allegiance) in our location, due to higher Phytophthora pressure in our soils. Seed treatments are most highly recommended at the beginning of the planting season due to cooler soil temps at that time. But Rhizoctonia, Phytophthora and Fusarium are all active in warmer soils as well – so use treatment throughout the entire planting season.
Another thing to consider is planting date. I’ve had great luck with our early planted soybeans. We are able to get a larger plant by flowering, enabling the plant to keep a higher percentage of those flowers to later turn into pods. I have not figured out why soybeans haven’t been pushed earlier like sugarbeets have. They do not respond any differently to a frost. And normally, a crop-killing frost will hit us in late May when mid-May planted beans will be affected as well.
This spring try some yield preservation tactics on your soybeans. Let’s get our yield growth curve to match what corn has done in the past 5-10 years. High yield soybeans shouldn’t be an anomaly in this region!