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High Yield Team fields look good going into harvest

Agriculture.com Staff 09/15/2006 @ 1:33pm

Steve Houzenga, Blooming Prairie, Minnesota, has faced boiling July heat, early wet conditions, and soybean aphids this growing season. But if pre-harvest yield estimates hold true, he'll be harvesting 60 to 65 bushel per acre soybeans later this month in a field that's being monitored as part of the 2006 High Yield Team program.

"I thought I'd need to get my glasses changed when Mark told me that," jests Houzenga, whose field was monitored by Mark Bernard, a New Richland, Minnesota, crop consultant, and member of the High Yield Team expert panel. This will enable Houzenga to reach his preseason yield goal of 55 bushels per acre for the field.

The keys? A timely 4-inch rain around July 21 did wonders for snapping the soybeans into shape.

"We got hit pretty hard during the first hot spell in July when we didn't get any rain," says Houzenga. "Things looked pretty sad, first for the corn and then for the beans, but then the four inches of rain carried us through the second hot spell in July."

The area of Minnesota where Houzenga farms -- the in-between area of south central and southeastern Minnesota -- was hit hard by cold temperatures and rainfall at planting season. Soybeans struggled to emerge and grow following planting. In Houzenga's program field, these conditions delayed planting until May 17.

"That was really the big thing on that field this year," says Bernard. "We had to patiently wait it out. The field really took off in July and August. The height on the beans was tremendous, and they compensated well."

After the soybeans dodged this bullet, one hurdle remained -- soybean aphids. Although infestations didn't occur as frequently as they did during the watershed aphid year of 2003, above-threshold levels surfaced in a number of southern Minnesota fields this year.

"One difference we saw in general about aphids this year is they were scattered all over the plant," says Bernard. "They were not congregated as in previous years. That made it a little confusing for some people out there trying to scout and make some treatment decisions."

This change highlighted the importance of regular scouting. Just scouting the field once and recommending no chemical treatment if aphid numbers were below the 250 per plant threshold didn't cut it this year. When conditions are right, aphid populations can skyrocket, says Bernard.

"That's why we scout on a weekly basis," he adds. "We had the heat up here toward the end of July and the first part of August, and that slowed things down. But that spread them down into the canopy and out through the plant. It didn't take too long for aphids to reach 250 per plant."

Houzenga ended up treating the field, which controlled the infestation. "I finally ended up biting the bullet," says Houzenga."

Excellent weed control also helped the beans along when they were struggling to canopy earlier in the growing season. Since the soybeans Houzenga planted in the field are large clear-hilum soybeans destined for the Japanese tofu market, they are not genetically modified. That means other herbicides must be used, as they are not glyphosate-tolerant.

Houzenga applied Valor preemergence, which controlled broadleaves like ragweed and waterhemp. He then followed up later on with a postemergence Flexstar for broadleaf control and Select for grass and volunteer corn control. He also cultivated once for escapes, such as foxtail.

Houzenga adds the ApronMaxx that was applied with the seed helped fend off early-season diseases like pythium and phytophthora root rot that thrive in cold and wet soils. Tile drainage also helped minimize the wet conditions.

When we checked in with John Fredrickson, Gowrie, Iowa, in mid-August, he was considering treating for bean leaf beetle after Palle Pedersen, Iowa State University agronomist, checked the field he had enrolled in the HYT program. He did treat the field with Nufos 4E insecticide and obtained good control.

That, when combined with the abundant rainfall in central Iowa in August and September, has Fredrickson optimistic going into harvest. "Being dry earlier in the summer probably strained the beans, but things have really picked up in August and the first part of September," he says.

Steve Houzenga, Blooming Prairie, Minnesota, has faced boiling July heat, early wet conditions, and soybean aphids this growing season. But if pre-harvest yield estimates hold true, he'll be harvesting 60 to 65 bushel per acre soybeans later this month in a field that's being monitored as part of the 2006 High Yield Team program.

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