Jay Van Woerkom, Agronomy Sales Manager
Soybeans may be considered corn’s less-popular little brother, but – with proper management – we can bump up soybean yields just as we have been able to do with corn. According to research, the latest technology and diligent care will deliver the greatest yield and return on investment. These concepts really aren’t secrets; they just haven’t been universally implemented.
There are six main factors to consider when you want your bin busting with soybeans come this fall.
As always, the biggest influence on any crop is the one we have no control over, but with proper planning, we can lessen the impact of the weather. Ideally you want to plant your soybeans as early in the season as possible, preferably late April or early May. Since soybeans are a light-sensitive crop, this timeline allows the plant to flower during the longest days of the year in late June to early July, which will increase pod set.
Proactive fertilization is key. Soybeans need four to five pounds of nitrogen per bushel, half of which is supplied by the plant nodules, the other half must come from natural nitrogen breakdown in the soil. Utilize soil tests to find the levels of the nutrients in your fields.
For optimum results, your soil should test in the 25 to 30+ range for phosphorus and 175 to 200+ range for potash. While soybeans love potassium, you also focus on phosphorus. Phosphorus uptake increases daily from germination through the following 70 to 80 days. Earlier planted soybeans with cooler ground conditions benefit significantly having a more readily available supply of phosphorus.
Maintaining your soil’s pH level is also crucial to insure that soybeans are able to access the available nutrients. A pH range between 6.5 and 6.8 has been proven to maximize soybean yields, by improving nutrient uptake and the ability of Rhizobium bacteria to fix nitrogen.
When you look at your options, you should not only focus on the variety’s potential for an ultra-high yield, but also their resistance to disease and insect problems will prove essential. This will give the crop a fighting chance against things like soybean cyst nematodes or sudden death syndrome. Take the time to match the agronomic traits with the specific issues in each field.
Make sure you are protecting your foliage. When you consider that about 60 percent of soybean yield is produced by the middle nodes, which get their energy from their leaves, it’s pretty easy to make the case for fungicides and insecticides. It only takes about six pods per plant to make the difference between 62 and 50 bushels per acre.
Protecting the crop is a must, which makes top quality seed treatments a must. Seed treatments can help protect from soil-borne diseases and insects. Defense against nematodes and sudden death syndrome protection are crucial in our area.
Research has shown that narrow rows of 15 inches or less allow for plants to canopy earlier and capture more sunlight for photosynthesis. It also has the added benefit of shading the soil to reduce weed competition. It was shown that the narrower rows can improve yield by about 8.5 bushels per acre under a high-management system.
Consult with our team to pick the best varieties for your fields and, as always, our agronomists are here for scouting and recommendations, as every year seems to have a new challenge.
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